Following the Good River

The Life and Times of Wa'xaid

By (author): Briony Penn
With: Cecil Paul
ISBN 9781771603218
Hardcover | Publication Date: November 17, 2020
Book Dimensions: 6 in. x 9 in.
392 Pages

About the Book

Based on recorded interviews and journal entries this major biography of Cecil Paul (Wa’xaid) is a resounding and timely saga featuring the trials, tribulations, endurance, forgiveness, and survival of one of North America’s more prominent Indigenous leaders.


Born in 1931 in the Kitlope, Cecil Paul, also known by his Xenaksiala name, Wa’xaid, is one of the last fluent speakers of his people’s language. At age ten he was placed in a residential school run by the United Church of Canada at Port Alberni where he was abused. After three decades of prolonged alcohol abuse, he returned to the Kitlope where his healing journey began. He has worked tirelessly to protect the Kitlope, described as the largest intact temperate rainforest watershed in the world. Now in his late 80s, he resides on his ancestors’ traditional territory.

Following upon the success of Wa’xaid’s own book of personal essays, Stories from the Magic Canoe, Briony Penn’s major biography of this remarkable individual will serve as a timely reminder of the state of British Columbia’s Indigenous community, the environmental and political strife still facing many Indigenous communities, and the philosophical and personal journey of a remarkable man. Wa’xaid passed away at the age of 90 on December 3, 2020.

Following the Good River was awarded the 2021 Butler Prize and short listed for the BC Book Prizes 2020.

About the Author(s)

Briony Penn is an award-winning writer of creative non-fiction books as well as a contributor to many anthologies and chapter books. She has been a feature writer and columnist for decades, with over five hundred articles on environmental issues and natural history in newspapers, magazines, government publications, online news sources and peer-reviewed journals. She has also written numerous environmental guides and educational handbooks for teachers in British Columbia. Her first book with RMB, The Real Thing: The Natural History of Ian McTaggart Cowan, was the winner and a finalist for two of the 2016 BC Book Prizes and the 2022 North American Wildlife Society Award. Briony’s work continued with the publication of two collaborative biographies with Cecil Paul: Stories from the Magic Canoe of Wa’xaid in 2019 and Following the Good River: The Life and Times of Wa’xaid in 2020, which won the Jeanne Clarke Memorial Award and the Butler Prize and was a finalist for the BC Book Prize in 2021. Briony lives on Salt Spring Island, BC.