RikkiSo, hello!

Jeff, Frank and TerryGood morning!

RikkiThis is really good. I'm so glad that again you can share some time with us and, we were just thinking about a couple of things that we would like to find out. One of the things I've been really interested in is, I was called an elder when I was 45 by some people outside of my own cultural group, but I'd really like to know from the Sto:lo perspective what an elder actually is. Jeff, would you answer that for me?

JeffYes. In our Sto:lo culture, there were actually two different elders. You see, what they said to you being an elder, and Siya:mchess is an elder of hereditary chiefs in his family.


JeffYou see, it's a different level of elders. You see that, in our society, the Sto:lo, it is very unique because you have a level of elders like Siya:mchess and his family, and his grandson is going to carry. Their duties were to make sure this line stayed within them, and the ones that are going to carry the bloodline, the Siya:mchess, they protected that, and they looked after that, and it was their duty to make sure that all the teachings that were supposed to be followed, that was passed on. And elders that you were just mentioning about, they told you you were an elder at 45, well, that alone is a big responsibility of making sure that these ones stay within their boundaries.

RikkiOh! That sounds very interesting. So when you say that the elders have carried the chief line, then the word you used was "responsibility", and that's really important, so it's not that it's just an honour and a recognition, and a status symbol, but it really is about their responsibility, not only to their family and their lineage, but to the people around them. Is that it?



JeffYeah, like a long time ago, this kind of, I was asked the same questions at Seabird, when I was doing pretty well the same thing, and they asked me about the elders' position like this because today, they use them as decision makers and they say, well, "elder told me I have to do this and I have to do …" Well, okay, today, in this century, elders play a different role, okay? They've moved in a different direction where, years ago, elders didn't have that much say.

RikkiOh? Wow!

JeffBut they did have a say in such a way that if he didn't follow his duty as the hereditary chief or as …, then it was brought to their attention.

RikkiIsn't that different, that's very different. It sounds really interesting and, when the words were spoken to me at 45, it was a recognition of the work that I had put in in helping a lot of other people outside of my own family, and I am of a chief lineage. We actually have female chiefs in that lineage as well. I'm not going to, I haven't got there yet, but I know that I have a responsibility. As soon as they spoke those words to me, I knew I was responsible to those people that said those words. But when you explain it about the chieftain line, and for Siya:mchess, and then, his grandson Siya:mchess, then it becomes more clear. So, you are also an elder. Can you tell me a little bit more about how that happened for you?

JeffOh, it was put on me by elders. The Coqualeetza elders stood me up one night in Skway and, from that time on, the supposition was that, because I didn't go to school like everybody else did, and I was kept home with my grandfather, and he taught me different other things other than school, you know, what they did in school-

Rikki-so more like the traditional ways were different?



JeffSo, they said, "We were all brought up in a residential school, and most of us went to school, and we forgot the things that are supposed to be done, and we want you to stand in front of us and help us out." So they stood me up.

RikkiHow old were you then? You know it?

JeffI was eight years of age.

RikkiWow! That's amazing! That was very early, then, for you, and that's quite a recognition. And because you were brought up in the traditional ways, you have that knowledge, again, the traditional ways that you learned from your elders, right? And you walked with them, and you helped them, but you were also learning all the time, because you don't say, "Rikki, you do this," but I'm to watch you, and then I try to do what you're doing exactly.

JeffYeah, in a sense, yes. You know, our culture is based on not having like a sergeant telling everybody what to do. Basically, our people hardly talked. When white people first came to this land, they thought all Indian people were deaf-mutes! They didn't speak to one another, basically because when somebody spoke, it came from them.


JeffYou see, you can't just up and start talking, you know, unless you are invited to speak.

RikkiAnd that's something that's from our culture as well, is that you are invited to speak.

JeffThat's right. If you were invited to speak, you got up and you talked, but you just didn't get up and start, you know, because you have to know the culture before you can get up and say something, otherwise you are going to be out in the middle of nowhere. Like the elders, when I was in Seabird, and they asked me the same question, I said to them, I told the kids and the people there the story about this grandmother. Her grandson was acting up, and he wasn't listening. So the siyá:m at the time said to the people and to the grandmother, who were going to take this grandson out and really take him away from the village, and they sent five runners out, and they run for five days each into the mountains. One will turn back every day, until the fifth one comes back by himself, and then you leave that boy there. You see, the grandmother had no decision on that?

RikkiAh, I see! Yes! And it was so different than our society-

JeffYeah, yeah.

Rikki-our society now.

JeffThat was their decision.

RikkiTheir way.

English | Français
© SFU MUSEUM OF ARCHAEOLOGY AND ETHNOLOGY, 2008/2009. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED | Site Credits | Feedback Form | Downloads | Sitemap