COLUMNS: The past, the future and the passing of a cowboy, Wilfred Anderson

A couple of weeks back Wilfred (Moore) Anderson passed on to the free and fair range in the sky.

A couple of weeks back Wilfred (Moore) Anderson passed on to the free and fair range in the sky.

Wilfred’s celebration was a modern revival of our living identity: a true example of who we are, who we have been and hopefully what we are becoming.

I wanted to honour this essential Cariboo man in a simple way by showing up. But I took away more than I gave.

Wilfred came from Spokin Lake in the traditional territory of the local Williams Lake First Nation.

He lived there when I got to know him, although he was the older teenager, and I the younger kid from 150 Mile.

Those present at the celebration really represented the modern history of the area. There were chiefs and former chiefs from the Chilcotin and the Shuswap First Nations.

Wilfred was a direct descendants of the last of a line of at least four Chief Will-Yums. His mother was the one of four daughters of the last Chief Will-Yum.

The service was conducted by someone who came from both the Southern Carrier nation Ulkatcho and an Anahim Lake settler ranching family.

The room was full of Aboriginal people, old settler families, rodeo cowboys and cowgirls and a general mix of local identities.  This was a picture of who we are.

The pictures that flashed up on the screen during the testimonials to this man were of ranch horses, grandchildren, team and wagon, team roping, a collie dog, even a camel in another land.

When I last saw him, he had come with his wife, Betty, to contribute some humble wisdom to what was happening on the range in the Chilcotin after the massive beetle kill in the pine forest.

His last ride there had revealed some things to him.

Wilfred’s life is a reminder that early travelers and settlers in this region (two centuries earlier the Eastern parts of what we know as Canada) had intermarried with local Aboriginals and created fairly peaceful co-existence in central Canada.

However, our colonial forefathers forgot this history when they wrote the Canadian constitution: only two founding nations: French and English. Where were the First Peoples in this creation of a modern nation state?

One historian, Ralston Saul in his book A Fair Country, said we were a Métis nation heavily influenced by aboriginal ideas: egalitarianism, a proper balance between individual and group and a penchant for negotiation over violence are all aboriginal values that Canada has absorbed.

The people gathered to celebrate Wilfred’s life I think probably reflect this kind of Canada.

They reflect the cultural past and point to a future where all of us can spiritually commit to a “live and let live” way of building a nation.

Who we are greatly influences what we will create for the future. Wilfred believed in a spiritual life on the land awaiting an afterlife and living as an example for others.

He was a great horseman and rancher. Several people gave testimony to how he helped change their lives for the better.

We are richer for who he was.

David Zirnhelt is a member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association and chair of the advisory committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching program which started at Thompson Rivers University in Williams Lake in January of 2016.