The Sechelt First Nation is mourning the loss of one of its most beloved and respected Elders.
Theresa Mae Jeffries (Sxixaxy) passed away peacefully Tuesday, March 19, surrounded by family and friends at St. Mary's Hospital in Sechelt.
Jeffries was a prominent figure on the Sunshine Coast and was a strong advocate of women's rights, education and her Native culture. She would often be called upon to provide a traditional blessing at Sechelt Nation events and cultural celebrations and was in many ways an ambassador for not only the Sechelt First Nation, but the whole Sunshine Coast.
She was born May 6, 1931 in Sechelt and is survived by her son Gordon Quinn, his wife Carole and grand daughters Tarin, Renee and Shanlea, sisters Anne and Rose, brothers Richard and Robert (Shirley) and many nieces, nephews and cousins.
Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons worked with the Sechelt Indian Band before he entered politics and knew Jeffries well.
“Theresa's passing is very sad for everybody. My thoughts and prayers are with the Sechelt Nation,” Simons said. “She has been a wonderful ambassador for the Sechelt people. She was always very warm, positive and outgoing. She always challenged people to take on the difficult things we have to do in the future. We have lost a special person.”
Simons said Jeffries, along with other Elders, had been instrumental in preserving the Sechelt language and the creation of a Sechelt language dictionary, which the Sechelt Nation presented to the provincial librarian at the B.C. Legislature in Victoria.
Simons said the dictionary is just one of many of Jeffries' lasting legacies.
“The whole community will be feeling this loss. This is a sad day for the entire Sunshine Coast. She will be sadly missed,” he said.
The board of education for School District No. 46 was also saddened by the loss.
“As an educator and as a passionate defender of the rights of Aboriginal people, Ms. Jeffries influenced generations of Sechelt Indian Band members to stand up proudly for their rights,” said a release from SD46. “The entire Sunshine Coast will miss her passion for life, for education, and for her selfless dedication to others.”
A celebration of life will be held on Monday, March 25 at 11 a.m. at the Sechelt Indian Ball Hall (5532 Xenichen Ave., Sechelt).
Editor's note: Coast Reporter is working with the family on a further tribute and memorial to Jeffries for the March 29th edition).