On Tuesday the Sunshine Coast lost a remarkable member of the community.
Respected and beloved Sechelt Elder Theresa Jeffries passed away peacefully with her family and friends by her side at St. Mary’s Hospital.
Jeffries was a passionate spokesperson for First Nations women and youth for most of her life. She was a kind and gentle woman who had a passion for her people. And although she was small in stature, her voice was anything but, as she challenged her immediate community within the Sechelt First Nation and the Sunshine Coast to simply do better.
She was always present at important Sechelt Indian Band (SIB) gatherings, often called upon to say a prayer or give a blessing. She was always seated in a place of honour, and her importance to the SIB was evident.
She enjoyed passing on her knowledge to younger generations, challenging them to live with honour and hold on to traditional teachings.
In the past few years, she and several of her fellow Elders were instrumental in creating a Sechelt language dictionary to ensure that the Sechelt language would not be lost and could be passed down to future generations.
But the work she did in helping to create this important piece of history for her people is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to her amazing life.
One of the most important causes she championed was the striking down of a section of the Indian Act that stripped women of their Indian Status if they married a non-Status man. Ironically, the same legislation gave non-Status women who married Status men full rights under the Indian Act.
In 1979 Jeffries, who had never considered herself anything but a full-fledged SIB member, applied to be reinstated to the Band after her marriage to a non-Status person.
Jeffries was educated in the residential school for the first eight grades. Then she was the first student from the Sechelt Indian Band to go to high school in the village of Sechelt.
For more than 60 years, she involved herself in her history, language and education. Her resume lists more than 13 different skill sets the amazing Elder has utilized over the years.
Her impacts on this community will be long lasting. She touched the lives of so many people. Her loss is a profound one for the SIB and for the Sunshine Coast.
We loved and respected Jeffries for her work, for her guidance, for everything that she gave this community.
Rest in peace, Theresa. Our lives have been enriched for knowing you.