Ed and Juanita Elliott, king and queen of the 42nd Annual BC Elders Gathering being held in the Cowichan Valley, look on as Premier John Horgan greets a participant during the Grand Entry. (File photo)

Thousands flood into Duncan for Elders Gathering

Event, hosted this year by Cowichan Tribes, runs July 10-12

It was a sight to behold as throngs of singing and drumming First Nations groups, along with Premier John Horgan and other dignitaries, took part in the B.C. Elders Gathering’s Grand Entry Tuesday morning, filling the Island Savings Centre’s arena to capacity.

Up to 5,000 people, including about 2,500 elders, are visiting the Cowichan Valley from July 10-12 to attend the 42nd annual gathering.

Hosted this year by Cowichan Tribes, the Gathering has elders coming from First Nations from all over the province.

Attendees will be accommodated at numerous locations throughout the south Island, from Nanaimo to Victoria, during the three-day gathering.

The events at the Gathering will mainly take place at the Island Savings Centre in Duncan, and will include workshops, tours, guest speakers, performers, and a fashion show.

Cowichan Tribes’ website says that this year’s reigning King and Queen at the Gathering, Ed and Juanita Elliott, are looking forward to welcoming all the elders from across B.C.

“We hope you enjoy yourselves during these three days,” the website said.

“We look forward to watching everyone connect with one another while gaining inspiration in your roles as elders. Cowichan Tribes encourages all attendees to share their wisdom, culture, and history.”

There will be a full schedule of activities based on the event’s theme: ‘I tst ‘o’ hwun’ ‘I (We are still here).”

‘I tst ‘o’ hwun’ ‘I speaks to the resiliency of the elders to still be present to rebuild, reconnect and revitalize their culture with future generations and work toward respectful harmonious relationships.

“This is an excellent opportunity for our community and neighbours to come together with Nuts’a’maat shqwaluwun – One Heart, One Mind, just like we did in 2008 for the North American Indigenous Games and Tribal Journeys,” said Cowichan Tribes Chief William (Chip) Seymour in a March interview.

As part of the activities related to the Gathering, Cowichan Tribes has loaned a totem pole that will be on display at Chances Cowichan.

A statement from Cowichan Tribes said that as Chances Cowichan is a joint venture partner for the First Nation, the totem pole will stand for the relationship between the two.

The pole was carved by Cicero Augustine in 1985 and has been refurbished by Doug August (Cicero’s son) for Cowichan Tribes.

It will be unveiled at Chances Cowichan on July 11 at 8:30 a.m. and there will be First Nations dancers at the event.

Invited guests at the unveiling include the chief and council of Cowichan Tribes, Duncan’s mayor and council and the Duncan totem sub-committee.