Marge Amos and Sammy Johnson of the Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation were among the many Nuu-chah-nulth elders present in Campbell River July 11-13. (Carla Moss photo)
They crossed waters and came through fire, smoke and beating sun to the lands of the Wei Wai Kum, Ligwilda’xw. These knowledge keepers came from across British Columbia to attend the 2017 BC Elders Gathering in Campbell River, July 11-13, 2017.
In a spirit of joy and excitement, family and old friends joined together at the Grand Entry at Strathcona Gardens for three day of sharing, pampering, visiting and fun. Many came in full regalia, many singing songs and some dancing.
“However they come in, they come in with power, they come in with pride, and they came in with smiles on their faces to be with so many elders, friends and family all in one place. There were so many elders it took well over an hour for them all to enter,” stated Judy Sayers in her First Nations in BC Knowledge Network blog.
For many Nuu-chah-nulth, (especially his aunties and cousin Nora Martin), it was a treat to see Mike Martin in his formal red serge, as part of the RCMP Honour Guard.
Seeing relatives and old friends, some friendships from as far back as school days is a huge highlight for most.
“It was wonderful to see so many relatives and friends from Nuu-chah-nulth homeland, got to visit with friends parts of the province whom I had not seen in years. It was wonderful to see a couple of people I had not seen since I left Mission Indian Residential School in 1968,” said Lillian Howard of Mowachaht/ Muchalaht.
A number of high profile dignitaries welcomed the elders during the opening ceremony including: the Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde, Union of BC Indian Chiefs Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, MP Rachel Blaney and the Mayor of Campbell River, Andy Adams.
“It was very good to see our National Chief and provincial leaders in attendance. That meant a lot to many people at the gathering,” said Lillian Howard, who was attending the Elders Gathering for the first time.
Federal Minister of Justice and Attorney General Jody Wilson Raybould entered with her tribe, We Wai Kai Nation, whose territory is located across the water from Campbell River at Cape Mudge on Quadra Island. She expressed her gratitude to be with all the elders.
“The basic purpose of the gathering is the need for elders throughout the province to have inter-social and community links that bind them together as a nation. It allows them to intermingle with like-minded, like-aged individuals and their families, to reveal common grounds that strengthen those links.” stated the BC Elders Communication Centre Society.
“It was wonderful to observe elders enjoying themselves, interacting with one another, sharing meals, attending workshops, taking in various activities, dancing and having fun,” said Lillian.
The conference also featured a full artisan showcase and craft sale, opportunities for personal care and fun like karaoke and a dance. At the 2017 Gathering, workshop topics included an update on the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women Inquiry.
For the past 41 years the conference has been hosted in different communities. On the last day of the 2017 conference the attending elders voted to host the 2018 BC Elders Gathering in Duncan.