The 22nd Annual Tsilhqot’in Nation Gathering, hosted Aug. 20-21 by the Yunesit’in community at the Chilcotin River Bridge near Hanceville, attracted hundreds of people from around the region.
Tl’etinqox Chief Joe Alphonse, MC of the event, said the focus of the gathering held during the third week of August, is the traditional activities and games of the Tsilhqot’in people. The theme of the gathering this year was salmon.
“It’s a busy time of year where people are out berry picking, haying and catching fish, and it’s an opportunity for our members to get together and re-energize,” Alphonse said.
There were a number of special guests at the gathering. Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs vice-president Bob Chamberlin spoke about the urgent need to protect wild salmon. Jill Setah recruited a number of volunteers and modeled her unique clothing creations she designed at the Centre for Arts and Technology in Kelowna. Patricia Pruim, a teacher at Yuniset’in School, had community members display their quilts they laboriously sewed in the past year under her watchful instruction. Cecil Grinder, a youth worker and self-styled healer, built a sweat lodge and conducted several sweats for young and old alike.
Other events included a talent night of entertainment with performers ranging in age from nine to 90 years old, a lahal tournament, singles and doubles horseshoe tournaments, archery, children’s games, and various competitions such as running races and a fishing derby.
To keep the gathering and the surrounding forest safe, the Chilcotin Ravens Unit Crew from the BC Forest Service wildfire protection branch were on hand to help out as needed. They even brought along world-famous Smokey-the-Bear as a special delight to the children.
An important event on the second day of the gathering was the signing of an historic letter of understanding between the Tsilhqot’in Nation and Interior Health Authority.
The signing by the six chiefs of the Tsilhqot’in communities and Rosanna McGregor representing the board of IHA, triggered the beginning of a process that will enable the Tsilhqot’in Nation to formally take over responsibilities for delivering its own health care from the federal government.
A dozen people performed in the talent show including 90-year-old Mabel Solomon who played three songs on her accordion.
Other performers included nine-year-old Greyson Lebel, who did a clown act telling jokes, musicians Sue and Jim Carlson, Geraldine Charleyboy, Isaac Myers, Helen Myers Haig-Brown, Joyce Quilt, Rich MacDonald, Sage Birchwater, Joyce Cooper and Stanley Stump Sr.
A highlight of the gathering was the preparation of great food by the cooks and volunteers.