You would be hard pressed to find a harder working group on the Sunshine Coast than the elders from the Sechelt First Nation. They joke that they work three times harder than they ever did as paid members of the labour force.
And few would argue that their most important work has been done as volunteers working tirelessly for their people. Sharp as tacks, their focus is to bring back a language and culture taken from their people by a misguided, arrogant Canadian government and the Church. An entire generation of Sechelt people is unable to converse in their own language shashishalhem because, in some cases, it was literally beat out of them at the residential school. For others, there was no one to converse with so the language was forgotten. As elder Teresa Jeffries said on a previous occasion, if it weren't for the sheer stubbornness of some of the people, the language would have been completely lost.
For over 30 years, the Sechelt members along with linguist Ron Beaumont have worked to revive the language. Thanks to efforts by the elders and the Sechelt Indian Band education department, their language is being taught in local schools and is an accredited language for university entrance. In other words, after a century spent trying to eradicate the language, it was finally given the same status as English and French. This summer another group of young people, under the guidance of teacher Candace Campo, Andy Johnson and Band cultural director Dionne Paul, became ambassadors for the Sechelt people. From toddlers to teens the group entertained many with their interpretations of ancient songs and dances. On more than one occasion their talents wowed visitors to the Sechelt Longhouse.
It's not difficult to see why the elders are held in such esteem by their people. They are the backbone of their people.