Students were given “Every Child Matter” bracelets and T-shirts for the ride. (Photo submitted)

Students were given “Every Child Matter” bracelets and T-shirts for the ride. (Photo submitted)

Tsideldel youth ride to Puntzi Lake, learn about residential school legacy

The destination was Bendziny Wellness Resort, formerly Kokanee Bay Fishing Resort

Tsideldel First Nation youth participated in a 90-minute bicycle ride to their community’s newly-purchased resort at Puntzi Lake on Wednesday, July 21 to learn more about Canada’s residential school legacy.

Each child wore orange T-shirts provided by the school and orange and black bracelets with the words: “Every Child Matters,” and heard from elders who shared their experiences about going to residential school.

“We had a powerful circle with our band manager Maryanne Boyd, band councilllors, and elders,” said Leyal Johnny, who has been the Tsideldel youth liaison worker for 11 years. “The children were served lunch and then went swimming.”

There were also cultural activities going on with drying of hides and moccasin making which the children were able to observe.

“It is an incredible resource — the resort. It is a beautiful place and so restoring,” said Hana Kamea, a community counsellor who has worked in the community for six years. “I can see the difference that being on the land and gathering can make.”

Chief Otis Guichon hauled the bikes in a trailer to the starting point and while he intended to ride his bike, ended up lending it out so someone else from the community could ride.

“It is always a joy to be out there with the youth,” he said. “It is good to work with them and be there for them to be a role model.”

Johnny said the ride was timely and they will being doing more.

“The pandemic has been hard on the children and families and created lots of fear, so being able to be out together and have all that space is wonderful,” Johnny said. “Our youth really love water. We are blessed to have the resort.”

Earlier this month Kokanee Bay Resort was purchased by the nation.

READ MORE: Tsideldel First Nation buys Kokanee Bay Fishing Resort at Puntzi Lake

While a name is being finalized, for now it is being called Bendziny Wellness Resort.

Bendziny is the Tsilhqot’in word for Puntzi.

Johnny and Kamea organized and chaperoned the ride and arranged for support vehicles.

The riders were shuttled to the Puntzi Lake Road so they wouldn’t be on Highway 20 and rode from there to the resort.

Johnny arranged for the loan of some bikes, had some repaired and borrowed helmets from the BGC Williams Lake Club.

“Some of our children have outgrown their bikes and other bikes need to be replaced,” Johnny said. “We would appreciate some new bikes and helmets for sure.”

Bruce Baptiste is the restoring balance facilitator at Denisiqi Services Society and he delivered the borrowed helmets and donated the bracelets for the youth.

Originally from Tsideldel, he attended St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School for seven and a half years.

“It was the good, bad and the ugly,” he said of his experience. “I played a lot of sports, that was my outlet.”

Leading up to the ride, Johnny said she prepared the children mentally.

“The key to programming is consistency with the children,” she said. “Participation in the programming is high. I go out of my way to work with the families.”

Tsideldel First Nation is a two-hour drive west from Williams Lake. Sometimes the program ming is in Williams Lake for swimming or a movie.

Having the resort at Puntzi Lake is a real asset, Johnny added.

“It has cabins, a playground, tenting and RV area, waterfront access and a boat launch.”

READ MORE: Outdoor skating rink arrives in time for Christmas at Tsideldel

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