It is with absolute regret that this letter is being sent to public media. However, the Idle No More movement with the peoples’ voices has inspired me to stand up when an injustice is occurring. The injustice is the Coqualeetza Elders Group (CEG) being unilaterally “dissolved”, forbidden to use the name “Coqualeetza” and is “no longer affiliated to CCEC’s services and program delivery” by the Coqualeetza Education Centre authority and the public must know our side of the saga.
The CEG has been a program of the Coqualeetza since 1974 with a proven record of integrity and honour and is well known across Canada and in several countries. The purpose of the CEG is to record and document the Halq’emeylem language, history and way of life of the Stό:lō. Policy provides for continuation of the traditional role of Elders as the Wisdom Keepers and providers of advice and guidance to the Board of Directors and leadership within the cultural area. The terms of reference for the CEG states the importance of socializing through the weekly luncheon meetings and exchanges with other groups in the area and throughout BC and the United States.
We have been a valuable resource especially to Alternate Education students and pre-school programs since the ongoing development of curricula was curtailed.
We are ever ready to be an asset to promoting and nourishing holistic, healthy development of our people and others.
The saga began in August 2011 when an unproven accusation of fraud was made by CCEC authority against an associate of CEG and has escalated to the elders displacement. Several attempts have been made by the group to resolve the situation without success. Elders were determined not to “air dirty linen” in public but our truth must be heard.
Although we have a separate bank account from CCEC’s administration, we were provided a modest annual allocation from core funding to supplement monies for the account. These funds allow an average of 30 elders from several Stό:lō communities and urban areas to go on annual cultural experience trips. Funds are generated by the elders through raffles at the weekly luncheons, general raffles and loonie auctions. The luncheons are potluck so the cost to administration has been insignificant.
Please be assured that much, much discernment has taken place at our weekly meetings about how to resolve this matter in a respectful way and we were still working on that when a resolution dated January 30, 2013 was received from the board of eirectors, dissolving the group.
It is beyond our comprehension how this action can be taken by our own family members who are in elected positions of responsibility. It is assumed that anyone associated with a “cultural” centre would have an intrinsic knowledge of the tradition to honour and respect elders.
The Stό:lō take great pride in honouring and respecting elders so how do we explain this action? We wonder, are current leaders forgetting their birthright in the name of power: in the name of bureaucracy; in the name of assimilated values; in the name of personality conflicts; in the name of subjectiveness? Decision makers today are descendants of wise visionaries who were involved with this group and CCEC since the beginning.
Many of us are products of the Great Depression era. We have lived frugal lives. 0We know all about hard work, long hours of labour and going without. This just doesn’t make sense.
Siyamtelot (Shirley D. Leon)