In July of 2017, Elders from First Nations across the province will be visiting Campbell River for the 41st annual BC Elders Gathering.
The BC Elders Communication Centre Society was awarded the honour of hosting the event at the 2015 gathering in Williams Lake and Ollie and Edwina Henderson were chosen as the King and Queen of the event.
The Hendersons’ role for the year leading up to the event is to act as community liaisons and promote the event at both public and private events.
“Allan and Edwina Henderson were chosen by the society because they are great supporters of the Annual Elders Gathering having attended the last 16 years all over the province,” said Donna Stirling, BCECCS Coordinator. “They are highly respected elders from the Wei Wai Kum Nation with deep cultural roots and they are both upstanding community members and staunch advocates of the importance of the Elders Gathering and its traditions continuing for all of our future generations.”
Campbell River first hosted the event in 2000. Because of its success, the society once again decided to bid to have the event come to the city.
“A couple of years ago after a few of us started putting our heads together again we decided to pursue the event for our home town, in honour of our family members who had passed on since the last time we hosted and in honour of all of our local elders,” said Stirling.
Invitations have gone out to all of the Aboriginal Elders in BC and the society is expecting 3,000 to 3,200 delegates as well as 300 volunteers.
Stirling said they have also invited Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Jody Wilson-Raybould, the attorney general, who is a descendent of the Wilsons of the Cape Mudge band, as well as Premier Christy Clark and Perry Bellegarde, the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations.
Part of the event will be open to the public. One of the arenas in Strathcona Gardens will be set up for information and vendors. Entry to which will be a donation to the food bank. Stirling also said that there will also be performances and activities in Spirit Square and other locations in the city that the public are encouraged to attend.
As well as speeches, entertainment and workshops the Elders will have the chance to have health checks, participate in workouts in the pool and in the gym and tour the area. Stirling said that the activities the society is planning include bingos and traditional crafts.
The first Elders Gathering was hosted by the Coqualeetza Elders of the Sto:Lo Nation in Chilliwack. A totem pole was carved to commemorate the event and the places and dates of the gatherings are inscribed at the base of the pole each year.
The gatherings provide the opportunity for people to exchange memories, knowledge and perspective.
The purpose of the gathering is foster relationships and community links between the Elders from nations across the province. The event gives them the opportunity to meet like-mind
with like-minded, like-aged individuals and their families.
There are also opportunities for the delegates to interface with youth to mitigate the generation gap and encourage younger generations to demonstrate respect, regard and honour for their elders.
The opening ceremony in Campbell River will be held on July 11, 2017, and there will be activities at Strathcona Gardens throughout the week.