Theresa Hamilton thinks it’s a small gesture, but an important one.
Last month she was hired as the Aboriginal Friendship Society’s (AFS) elder outreach coordinator. If any kind of true and meaningful reconciliation is possible moving forward, Hamilton says that communication will be critical.
“I’m really happy that this is something we can do for the community,” said Hamilton.
The goals of the elder outreach program are to identify indigenous members and elders in the local community, determine how AFS can serve them, and create relationships with the community at large.
AFS has also hired an elder outreach facilitator to achieve those objectives.
Marlene Coolidge, who is new to Revelstoke and has Woodlands Cree heritage, says she is thrilled to be part of the program.
“I am thrilled to learn about the roots of this community, and gain insight into the culture,” said Coolidge.
Hamilton says that that relationship building is healing and required for reconciliation. She says that lots of people she has spoken to have never had the opportunity to express or claim their indigenous heritage before.
“We need to build relationships, that is part of reconciliation. That is part of healing,” said Hamilton. “A lot of the folks I’ve spoken too have told me they have never had an opportunity to express their indigenous identity before.”
Hamilton studied indigenous studies in university in Ontario, but said that most of what she had learned was out of the textbook until she moved out west. She says she is eager to be a face in the community, and that the job is right for her.
“I think this found me, and I am so honoured to be telling and recording people’s stories,” said Hamilton. “It is so beautiful, and coming at a critical time.
The Aboriginal Friendship Society was incorporated as a not-for-profit in July 2015.
On Tuesday, April 10, they hosted a potluck at 404 Connaught Ave. to introduce the community to the elder outreach program.
To RSVP contact hamilton at firstname.lastname@example.org
AFS will also be hosting an Earth Day Celebration at the BC Interior Forestry Museum between 5 and 8 p.m. on April 22. Elder Bart Thomas and members of the Spallumcheen band will be sharing traditional drumming and songs.
There are a number of indigenous groups who claim Revelstoke and the surrounding area as part of their traditional land. Among them are the Sinixt, or “lakes people,” who were declared extinct by the Canadian government in 1956 during the negotiations of the Columbia River Treaty. See: Eilleen Delehanty Pearkes, A River Captured: the Columbia River Treaty and Catastrophic Change, for more information. Acknowledgement of traditional territory is an important cultural protocol for Indigenous peoples, nations and cultures. We would like to acknowledge and honour the four nations on whose territory we gather; Sinixt, Secwepmec, Ktunaxa and Syilx.