By Frank LaRue
The 40th Annual BC Elders Gathering was held this year in Williams Lake from July 11th to the 14th. More than 2,000 Elders were there to celebrate the event and it was the most successful Gathering in four decades by all accounts. The Theme this year was “Keeper of the Land and Water”, a very accurate description of our people who have always watched over the environment and very timely considering our current environmental issues.
The passing on of history may be one of the Elders true missions but the intuitive and cultivated instinct to defend Mother Earth has always been one of our great strengths.
The Gathering underwent preparations for months, Cecil Grinder chair of the organizing committee told the WIlliams Lake Tribune, “A highlight has been people getting together to make a difference. It’s not just our Native communities, it’s the city of Williams Lake. I’m very impressed with the outcome and everyone’s interest in what we are trying to do here.”
There were several events including the rodeo that kicked off the Gathering, as well as entertainment on different stages and traditional feasts were served every day. One of the keynote speakers included Dr. Evan Adams.
Also featured was a Tent City, which was a reminder of time gone by when First Nations attending the Williams Lake stampede would camp near the grounds. This year Pow Wows, cultural activities, Sweat Lodges and Healing Circles could be found near Tent City along with a convoy of motor homes.
Kudos to the organizers who seemed to have forgotten nothing and ensured everything ran smoothly. Cecil Grinder was thankful for the volunteers, “We had the local volunteers and people coming in from all over. I think we are looking at 4,000 to 5,000. And I thank our volunteers because they are the ones that have made this possible,” Grinder added, “Even the vendors at the arts and craft venues were surprised when I thanked them for being here. I told them that’s who we are as Tsilhgot’in, Shuswap, Carrier, St’at’ imc and Nuxalk people.”
The success of the 40 Elders Gathering in Williams Lake came as no surprise to Grinder, “Williams Lake is made out of mining, forestry and Native people. That’s what supports the economy. We’re just trying to get more recognition for the part we play and what we bring to the economy. It’s all about building bridges for the Native and Non-Native communities to get together.”