Thursday, April 4, 2013

 

Native News

Noble Elders

Native seniors group looks to community for support at rally April 10

Submitted by Debbie Bob, CEG

 

e are seeking your support. Please attend the Rally scheduled Wednesday, April 10th at the Coqualeetza Grounds @ 1:00 pm, 7201 Vedder Road, Chilliwack, B.C. Hand drummers welcomed.

In 1954, amendments to the Indian Act, lifted the law of punishment for practicing ceremony, for Status Indians.

Over a decade later in 1969, the BC Native Brotherhood, now the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, signed 99 Band resolutions to support the creation of the Coqualeetza Cultural Education Society (CCEC) to be the first provincial resource to support cultural teachings and language. There was recognition of how much had been lost through residential school attendance, foster care and the law banning cultural practices.

From the beginning the CCEC recognized this important task could not be completed without the support of Elders.

In 1974, the  Coqualeetza Elders Group (CEG) was formed and since that time 120 elders have been lost to us, each contributed to important work in the creation of archives, language resources and cultural teaching. Recently the CEG recognized them in a burning ceremony.

The CEG was open to all Elders of Aboriginal ancestry who could attend. Over time, supporting the whole province proved too challenging and the funding formula for the delivery of language and cultural activities changed as well. CCEC no longer supported the provincial initiatives, but continued with the support of 24 Bands within the Stolo Nation. The CEG remained all inclusive in the spirit of All Our Relations.

Now there are only four band resolutions for the CCEC and many communities have taken on their own responsibility for the delivery of such programs. The importance of Elders however has not changed.

The CEG has continued to meet for luncheons every Wednesday, has supported children's learnings, adult alternative education, been ambassadors through their visits with other Elders across British Columbia and North West United States, been consulted with on numerous documents, research initiatives, language and cultural activities, to name a few. The CCEC and the CEG were also the first hosts of the BC Elders Gathering now in it’s 37th year.

In the past year and half the CEG relationship with the CCEC has changed. Communications with the Board of Directors has been sporadic, the CEG has not been invited to the board meetings to fill their seat as allowed by the organizations constitution.

There has been disagreement over the handling of human resources for the CEG, and it has left the Elders feeling un-consulted and unheard. Communications have dwindled and the Elders, one of the most important natural resources we have, have felt under utilized and abandoned. They have soldiered on however without staff, or funding support, feeding themselves each week by potluck and holding small fundraisers. Finding their own way to travel to other communities and to send members to the Annual BC Elders Gathering.

The CEG has tried various approaches to resolve the on-going impasse between themselves and the Cultural Centre’s Board and Manager.  In-house and public forum meetings, correspondence, resolutions, and petitions, have all been ineffective.  

This resulted in us receiving correspondence by email January 30, 2013 about their decision to dissolve the Coqualeetza Elders Group.   After much consideration and prayer the following response was hand delivered on behalf of the CEG, to the Centre on February 20, 2013:

We intend to continue with the weekly meetings and remaining united;

• The name “Coqualeetza” will continue to be used to identify the Elders Group;

• Exception is taken to “no longer being affiliated with CCEC services or program delivery funding.  It is understandable if the BoD has insufficient funds to continue the annual allotment of $4,000.00 and financial contribution to the Annual Cultural Trip.  We have been in that situation many times in the past but to dissolve our Group is unacceptable.  It is also unacceptable to formally note that “CCEC is not responsible for any financial debts, payments or dues outstanding.  We take great pride in our honour and reputation that we would never impose such an activity on you or anyone else;

• We sincerely desire reconciliation with the administration of Coqualeetza Cultural Education Centre.  We want to remain connected to the Centre and to maintain the legacy which our forerunners have entrusted to us. The hope is that we can work together with the BoD to realize a mutually satisfactory Plan of Action to achieve that end.

• Due to the questionable legality of not considering the CEG President as a legitimate member of the Board (Correspondence, June 1, 2012), you are respectfully requested to send all notices of forthcoming BoD meetings and minutes to Virginia Joe, CEG President.

Even with our written response, local newspaper articles, letters to the editors, our regular weekly Elders meetings we have had no further communications from the Board of Directors to alleviate our concerns.  The Coqualeetza Elders therefore saw a need to make a stand, go public…to be…IDLE NO MORE!   Encouraged by youth across the country ...to be... SILENT NO MORE!

Please support Elders and acknowledge their importance by attending the Rally scheduled Wednesday, April 10th at the Coqualeetza Grounds @ 1:00 pm. All Elders are welcome to join our luncheons on Wednesdays from Noon -  2:30pm Building #5 - 7201 Vedder Road, Chilliwack, B.C.

Download the rally brochure here.

 

 

 

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