By Vilja Arnsteinsdatter
This article first appeared in print in the June 2019 issue of Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine.
Jim Cooperman’s first volume in his three-volume geographic handbook series, respectfully dedicated to the Secwepemc people, is both a rich and informative guidebook and a declaration of love for the Shuswap region.
The Shuswap is a 1.55-million hectare watershed, extending vastly in all directions – from the Thompson Plateau in the west, to the Monashee Mountains in the east, the Aberdeen Plateau in the south, and north to the Upper Adams River. It encompasses five large lakes and nine rivers. The Shuswap includes seven incorporated communities: Lumby, Enderby, Sicamous, Chase, Salmon Arm, as well as parts of Spalumcheen and Coldstream. It is therefore no wonder that to describe and capture it all, one needs patience, structure, and more than a keen interest – perhaps even a lifetime of study. When reading Everything Shuswap, one gets the impression that the author has all these qualities, and he is very excited to share them with his readers.
US-born environmentalist Jim Cooperman has made the Shuswap region his home, and his fondness for where he lives shines through in this carefully constructed work. The pages are filled with a mix of stunning landscape and nature photography, detailed maps and colourful infographics, and historical images tying in with the stories. I enjoyed the book for what it is – a passion project showcasing years of research and hard work.
The book seems to have two aims: one is to inform, teach, and guide those who visit and live in these areas. The other aim seems to simply be born out of a wish to create a better understanding and appreciation of the places. As the author himself says:
“The goal for this book is to provide the information needed for readers to gain an improved understanding of everything Shuswap and thus gain a better appreciation of our region. With knowledge there comes respect and hopefully a passion to help protect all of the Shuswap’s outstanding values.”
Everything Shuswap is a sharp portrait of the land, waters, wildlife and humans that make up the Shuswap. Cooperman takes us on a deep journey through what is one of the lesser-known regions of B.C.; a journey that is extensively researched and well-observed. Rather than passively travelling through the natural landscape, Cooperman gives the reader a front seat view, accompanied by rich history and detailed descriptions. Everything is connected, and Cooperman’s book serves as a reminder of how intertwined we humans and nature are. Blended in between images and maps are essays of geography and on indigenous and settler history, photos showing the current states and photos of archival value, as well as historical documents providing context to the history and biodiversity of the Shuswap.
The 240-page long book contains five chapters dedicated to different areas, highlighting (in order) the watershed, geology, ecology, the Secwepemc people, and the history of settlement. Everything Shuswap also includes an illuminating foreword, penned by Canadian writer Alan Haig-Brown, as well as an extensive bibliography and source material.
Everything Shuswap is a treasure chest for those interested in history, ecology, geology, and bioregions, and for those who share Cooperman’s love for the area. This is not a guidebook in the most common interpretation of the word – you will not find trailheads, hiking times, and lists of elevation gain. What you’ll find is rather a guide to understanding and appreciating a region, and to gain knowledge of how it came to be. Written with an approachable syntax and graciously lacking overly technical and scientific prose, this book can be enjoyed by a wide range of readers looking to explore this unique region both in person and on the page.
Everything Shuswap: A geographic handbook – Volume 1