|May and Skip Sam with multi-generations of their family|
I've thought many times, for many years, about the way the term Elder is used by the First Nations here in British Columbia, and I wish, quite frankly, that we had an equivalent concept, history, and application in the non-native population. I wanted to learn more about how Elders themselves understand the term, so I interviewed five Coastal Elders recently, and it was moving to hear them talk about the roles they play in their communities, and their hopes for the children and the future. In fact, when I called May Sam, (pictured above with some of her large family), to set up a time to come to see her and her husband Skip, May immediately suggested I come at 3:30, so I could be there after school and would see them within the family setting that includes great-grandchildren and all the generations of their family.
|Alberta and Dan Billy and me (Star) at the Quadra Island United Church|
My longtime friends Alberta and Dan Billy are Elders of the We-Wai-Kai band of the Kwagiulth nation on Quadra Island and they told me about how they were chosen, even as children, to be taught the ways of their people, so they could pass on these teachings to the next generations. Dan has been a band councillor now for more than 40 years, working on Treaty negotiations most recently, and Alberta worked for years to bring about the apology from the United Church for the abuses of residential schools, while she was also an active member of the Quadra Island United Church herself. I think that's one of the things I admire most about Alberta: her ability to bridge cultures as she works for the betterment of all of us. She's now involved with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, but also with workshops and ceremonies that help the non-native culture understand the wisdom and history of BC's First Nations.
|May Sam with her great-grandson, reading Yetsa's Sweater,|