31st Annual B.C. Elders Gathering

Photos & Story by Anji Smith

The 31st Annual BC Elders Gathering hosted by the Squamish Nation took place at the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre and The Capilano Reserve through out August 8th, 9,th, 10th of 2007. The circle of events began with a Squamish welcome of respect as each nation proudly made their entry into the hall. With an estimated attendance of over three thousand people, this three-day event brought together Elders from close to thirty BC First Nation bands. Sharing their wisdom, knowledge and the keeping of their traditional and cultural ways of the past, while respecting and connecting with today’s youth. This was the main agenda of the Elders Gathering.

Chief Alana Andrew, Chief Gibby Jacob with this year’s elder royalty, King George Jacobs Sr and Queen Marjorie Natrall along with mayor Sam Sullivan and MP Blair Wilson were at the opening ceremony, which began early with cultural prayer and elder speeches. The entertainment came in a variety of expressions, several dance groups which included the Metis Dance Group, the Kwa’kawaka, The Urban Dance Group and the West Coast Dance Group gave stellar performances on both days. Author, poet, Richard Van Camp headlined the storytelling along with Gene Tabagan who gave a touching rendition of Raven Dreaming. Native lawyer Calvin Helin who has released his first book ‘ Dances With Dependency’ gave a compelling speech on the spirituality of wisdom that is handed down by the elders.

Darren YeltonSquamish carver Darren Yelton who enjoys the reputation of keeping the ancient conventions of native artwork alive by carving many intricate symbolic figures such as the bald eagle, the Orca, the Bear and the Wolf. Darren has also carved many totem poles and was asked to carve one for the Elders Gathering. The pole was unveiled on the final day of the gathering as a symbol of the Squamish nation’s strong community spirit that won them the right to host this year’s gathering. Prince Rupert Friendship House has won the right to host next years gathering.