Len Roberts’ Vision Changed Lives

 

Len Roberts at Camp Colonial Lodge
Len Roberts at Camp Colonial Lodge

When I received the message early last week that my friend Len Roberts had made his final exit from the stage of life, it was as though my personal world shifted on its axis. He was one of those rare, larger than life individuals whose words and actions shape the lives of people around them.

I first met Len when I applied for a job with the One Way Adventure Foundation, then headquartered in Surrey. He wanted me to receive training in the organization’s wilderness skills program in Hedley. On June 30, 1974, he picked me up at my home in rural Abbotsford. During the 3 hour drive he introduced me to the history, philosophy, and methods of the Foundation.

Jean and I had a booth at the Cloverdale Fair, promoting Bowron Lakes Canoe Expeditions,” he began. “A probation officer asked if we’d take a group of their young clients. We agreed and for 9 days we had a bunch of devious, rowdy teens in the wilderness, away from the city and their friends. When we returned with the kids still alive, the probation officer invited us to develop a program for their toughest cases. Soon 20 or more untamed youths were arriving at our home every morning and we began noticing our neighbours anxiously peering through slits in closed curtains. This convinced us we needed to get the kids away from our neighbourhood.”

The Roberts established the One Way Adventure Foundation and bought 3 acres with a house and small barn. That was the beginning of an effective and fairly unique approach to working with teens who were no longer welcome in their own community, school or home.

In time they realized they required a more remote setting, so they purchased Camp Colonial on the outskirts of Hedley. They added vehicles, canoes, back packing equipment and more. This enabled workers to take students away from familiar street haunts and associations. It permitted students to participate in adventures that developed an awareness of their potential. It also fostered relationships between students and workers.

That first summer, under the leadership of a wilderness skills instructor, my 5 boys and I canoed the Bowron Lakes circuit. We were bitten by horse flies and hordes of mosquitoes, felt the pain of canoe yokes digging into our shoulders while portaging between lakes, paddled all day in rain, and took turns doing bear watch at night. In the evenings around a campfire, I read to them from Jack London’s wonderful book,”Call of the Wild”. On the 9th day when we landed on the last shore, the students spontaneously formed a victory circle. As predicted by Len’s teaching, it had been a relationship and character building adventure.

Throughout those years Len and Jean were a potent team. Len had the vision and unassuming charisma that attracted workers. He looked for individuals willing to descend into the trenches and do what was needed. During my time, 2 former students who had completed their program returned and entered our one year training for new staff. Both became valued leaders in the organization. Sometimes less educated staff demonstrated a wonderful sensitivity that allowed them to develop strong bonds with the students. Again and again, Len reminded us that relationships were key.

While Len was bringing in new workers, buying vans and small green 4×4 toyotas (toads), and acquiring buildings needed for programs, Jean tightened the organizational nuts and bolts. She kept the wheels on the rails.

That the system changed lives is attested to by Hedley’s Post Master, Ruth Woodin. She told me that since the doors of the Foundation were closed in the early 1990’s, a number of former students have come into the P.O. and said, “I was a kid here years ago. It changed my life.” Not all have achieved success, of course, but we know of many who now have families and are holding jobs.

In a quiet way, always trusting God for guidance, Len stirred our imagination and spirit, imbuing us with a sense of mission. His compelling presence and unwavering commitment drew us to the work. We wanted to be part of his vision. We wanted to give young people a more optimistic understanding of who they were created to be.

For many Len Roberts was rare and special. For me he became a valued friend.

Art Martens with his friend, Len Roberts
Art Martens with his friend, Len Roberts

It’s A Race Car!

 

Fred Bell & his race car.
Fred Bell & his race car.

I’ve known for some time that Fred Bell races cars in Penticton. A few days ago I noticed a beat up vehicle on a trailer in front of his home. When I met him and Linda on the street yesterday I asked, “what are you going to do with that wreck on the trailer in front of your house?”

Almost in unison they replied, “that’s not a wreck. It’s a race car!”

I apologized for insulting what they obviously considered a very special car. “Come over and have a look,” Fred offered.

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About 15 minutes later I showed up with my camera for a close up inspection of the car, which I learned is a 1972 Monte Carlo. I still thought it appeared extraordinarily trashed and wondered how it could possibly race.

He won a trophy in Penticton with it last weekend,” Linda assured me. “He posted the fastest time in the Heat Race.”

Fred told me with understandable pride he broke a 14 year record in the quarter mile event. “My time was was 16.33,” (seconds) he said. “I’m in 5th place overall for the season.” It’s not surprising he wins. He started racing at age 15. At that time, his father owned the Big Horn Speedway in Keremeos.

I was amazed to learn the car has only 2 forward gears. “It’ll go 80 mph in first,” Fred said.

The car is so banged up because of the “hit to pass” rule. “I’ll have to do some repairs before I race this weekend,” Fred said. “It costs me $7,000 a season to run it. There is no prize money so I’m looking for sponsors to help with the cost.” To raise funds he offers rides at the raceway to all comers. Cost per ride is $20.00. Be sure to turn off your hearing aids though. The roar of that powerful motor will shatter your ear drums.

Fred told me he races because “it’s fun.” It’s definitely not the prettiest car in town but it may be the fastest.

Three Donuts

Left to Right: Jeremy (my son), Neil (a friend) & myself. The donuts were already consumed.
Left to Right: Jeremy (my son), Neil (a friend) & myself. The donuts were already consumed.

At the wedding of our grand daughter Jordana this summer, the caterers provided large platters piled high with freshly made glazed donuts. This apparently was in deference to the groom, a Mountie. Because I find donuts virtually irresistible, we don’t have them in our home. I later confessed to Linda I’d eaten three. She didn’t express even minimal empathy when I had a restless night.

Half a dozen beer might have been more beneficial than the donuts, but Dr. Rashid Buttar would not approve of either. In “9 Steps to Keep the Doctor Away”, he offers an extensive program for optimal health. Admittedly, he’s somewhat of a “no fun guy.” “Cut out all pastries,” he admonishes the reader, then adds, without apology, “also no processed foods, no sugar, no soft drinks.” He would disapprove of virtually every food that rates close to a 10 out of 10 on my personal list of favourite meals. Pyrogies, for example, and mashed potatoes. Both with gravy. Add to this mix Linda’s home made buns and cookies. And frozen Wild Black Cherry yogurt. See what I mean when I say he’s a no fun guy?

According to Dr. Buttar, by faithfully staying away from his forbidden list we promote the cleansing of the body and achieve more robust health. As should be expected, he unabashedly advocates eating only organic and drinking no coffee or alcohol.

A very small percentage of individuals possess the wisdom and discipline to live in the manner prescribed by Dr. Buttar. I do not qualify for membership in this elite minority of Super Persons. For me, healthy habits are difficult to develop. Unhealthy ones are difficult to discard. However, last year I was becoming aware of the excessive toll time was exacting on my body. This prompted me to pick up Dr. Buttar’s book. It was time to cease being complacent, believing my body could single handedly cope with the various additives in our food and toxins in the air and water.

In spite of grumbling about Dr. Buttar’s stringent program, I quickly realized he does offer interesting and helpful counsel concerning exercise, meditation or prayer (he isn’t fussy about which form we choose), cleansing the body of toxins, drinking plenty of water, and more. He also urges us to laugh often, so maybe I’m unfair in saying he’s a no fun guy.

I noted that some prominent U.S. physicians have roundly condemned Dr. Buttar, but I wasn’t troubled by this. How could I argue with an approach that preaches prevention rather than waiting for an illness to strike and then being given a prescription that might have unwelcome side effects?

An experience about a dozen years ago helped me give the 9 Steps a fair evaluation. My back was seriously injured in a case of medical malpractice and the medical profession had no remedy. My MD prescribed powerful pain killers that induced suicidal thoughts. At night I sat on the floor of our livingroom, thinking about throwing myself under the wheels of a dump truck. My other thought was a desire to break the legs of the man who had so cavalierly performed a maneuver whose disastrous outcome he should have foreseen. “We didn’t know what to do with you,” the MD told me later.

By the time the problem was somewhat corrected, permanent damage had occurred and my physical strength was depleted. I pretty much needed to start over.

A personal trainer convinced me to get serious about stretches and exercise. Linda joined me in this. Now, before breakfast, we stretch and exercise with the fervour of an 8th century monk. Well, that may be embellishing somewhat, but we rarely make exceptions, even on Christmas morning and on our birthdays. I don’t claim we enjoy it, just that for us it’s necessary.

Why the emphasis on exercise? “It causes a more efficient use of sugar,” Dr. Buttar says. “Also, it decreases blood pressure and heart rate. It increases lean body mass and strengthens the immune system. It increases range of movement, recovery and stamina.” Oh yes, it also enhances sex drive.

It’s generally accepted by medical people that nutrition and physical activity play a significant role in preventing cancer, stroke, heart attack, diabetes and other health issues. I am careful, but also human. If there is another Mountie wedding, I may still establish a new personal donut consumption record.

He Still Lives Mightily

John Merriman of Keremeos, BC
John Merriman of Keremeos, BC

After our conversation with 97 year old John Merriman in his Keremeos home, Linda was reminded of counsel offered by the ancient Israeli King Solomon. In his Old Testament book Ecclesiastes, Solomon urged “whatever your hand finds to do, do it mightily.” John has certainly packed a lot of living into his years. He lived in a time when men doing physical work often needed to contend with daunting expectations and challenges. His lean, still robust frame and resolute attitude suggest the inner steel required in those early unforgiving decades.

John was born near Des Moines, Iowa, then at age 5 was taken by his parents to England. In 1927 the family emigrated to Canada and settled on a farm in Birch Hill, Saskatchewan. Here he developed a rugged work ethic. “I clipped sheep, castrated hogs and worked on machinery,” he said. “I was mechanically inclined.”

Later, as a young man I got a job on a farm working for $100 a year.” According to “Stories by John Merriman”, a book written by a great grand daughter, he had a deep religious experience during this time and it shaped the rest of his life.

He subsequently worked on a road building operation. “We were cutting spruce timbers into cord wood, using swede saws, cross cut saws and axes. This is where I first saw a man working with a chain saw. Two men with a cross cut saw could buck logs faster than he could.”

They were working in muddy terrain and often up to 4 layers of logs needed to be laid down. “The earth sucked them under,” he explained. “Somewhere there is probably still a D6 cat buried in the mud out there.”

On a sawmill job he displayed resolve and steady nerves. “A man had his hand cut off by a big saw,” he remembered. “We applied a tourniquet and bandaged the wound. I put him in my car and we set off to the nearest doctor. Every few miles my car came to a stop. The points were corroded so I’d file them. When we met a police car, I stopped in the middle of the road so he couldn’t pass. We put the man in his car and I returned to the mill. All work had ceased because no one would go near the hand still lying there. I buried it.”

In 1942 he enlisted in the Canadian army and was assigned to the Signal Corps. “They paid me $1.10 a day. The food wasn’t so good though, mutton day after day.”

They were each given a “house wives” kit and expected to darn their own socks, or pay for new ones. “As a boy I had watched my mom darn,” he said, “so I could figure out how to do it. Most of the men smoked. I chewed snuff which cost me 10 cents a can. It damaged my teeth and gums though and when it went up to 75 cents, I quit.”

In Italy the truck he was driving was hit by German artillery. It burned up and he suffered burns to his face and arms. “They covered the burns with vaseline and put me in a tent with other disabled men. The tent smelled so bad the food was delivered to the door in a tub and left there. Some men had lost their arms and we helped them eat.”

While John was away, his father lost the family farm due to medical bills. John had saved his army pay, and upon discharge he bought another farm so his father could be on the land again. John began putting together a mill business and also a very successful trucking and construction company.

In March 1945 he went to the local improvement office to pay his taxes. Here he met Doris. “I never had time to fool around, so I married her in June,” he said. They had seven children, and enjoyed 60 years together before she passed away.

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Now, deep in retirement he remains active. In 1989 he began driving for the Citizens Patrol. In recent years he has been driving people to medical appointments, to buy groceries, etc. He looks after the 50-50 draws at OAP functions. “After you’re 90,” he said, “they give you a free membership.”

Today John Merriman’s strong hands continue to find things to do, and he does them mightily.

Similkameen Pow Wow 2016

Once again the Similkameen Pow Wow at the Ashnola Campground was a spectacular, uplifting event. The big drum boomed almost constantly, dancers in colourful and elaborate regalia swirled with energy, often with ecstasy and joy. Superbly organized, it honoured the culture of the people. Lauren Terbasket, a member of the organizing group described it as a celebration of life. Certainly the upbeat atmosphere suggested an attitude of celebration on the part of participants and spectators. Most of the action was on the dance floor but on the far side of the open structure, Linda and I were surprised to see numerous booths. Small time entrepreneurs were selling clothes, beads, jewelry, food and various momentos.

One of our purposes in attending was to record the Pow Wow for the blog. We found the dancers very willing to be photographed, as though this was a recognition of their efforts in producing their splendid regalia. Without exception they gladly and unhesitatingly answered our questions, in some cases smiling as they spoke. For us, dialoguing with a number of the dancers was one of the highlights.

Rod from Merritt
Rod from Merritt
Damen from Mount Currie
Damen from Mount Currie
Nightrunner from Kootanie
Nightrunner from Kootanie
Deanne & Beai from Kelowna
Deanne & Beai from Kelowna
Cheyenne & her daugter, Samore (age 3). From Agassiz.
Cheyenne & her daugter, Samore (age 3). From Agassiz.
A group of "young warriors".
A group of “young warriors”.
Grand Entry begins.
Grand Entry begins.
A Drumming Circle
A Drumming Circle
Snapshot of the audience.
Snapshot of the audience.
Enterprising entrepreneurs set up tents & booths to display and sell their wares.
Enterprising entrepreneurs set up tents & booths to display and sell their wares.

 

 

Fulfillment From Service To Community

Art at anti-SE2 rally
Art at anti-SE2 rally

 With children back in classrooms and the benign sunny days of summer largely a fond memory, autumn is a good time to make a decision that will reward us with deep satisfaction and fulfillment. Experience has demonstrated to Linda and myself, and to many others, that being active in our community can stir up a surprising sizzle of adventure. Of the approximately 80 individuals with whom I’ve had conversations for this space over the past 2 years, most have been, or still are ardent contributors to their community. Whether helping in a thrift store, driving seniors to appointments, or rallying to a larger issue, whatever their age, I have found them to be upbeat and vibrant.

Linda and I have learned that being active in our community brings useful insights, powerful memories and lasting friendships. While living in Abbotsford in the 1990’s, a U.S. corporation proposed to construct a highly polluting gas fired power plant, Sumas Energy 2 (SE2), just across the border from our community. Due to the prevailing air flow, most of the plant’s dirty emissions would migrate to our side, endangering the health of humans, animals and crops. Citizens were aghast.

SE2 applied to the National Energy Board (NEB) for permission to build a power line across Abbotsford to access the B.C. Hydro power grid. Our provincial government could have opposed this but in spite of many promises during the election campaign, it remained on the sidelines, mute and indifferent.

With hordes of SE2 and NEB attorneys ready to advise and direct the proceedings, Linda and I, like most in our community, decided this issue was well beyond our experience and capability.

The NEB invited citizens to participate in the hearings as intervenors but when the local newspaper published the list of those who had signed up, there were only 17. Linda said, “that’s not enough. We’ll have to get involved.” She meant I would have to sign up and she would support me.

Several letters to the local newspaper expressed the prevailing gloomy sentiment. “Don’t waste your time. The Yanks always win.”

Linda and I invited 8 friends to our home to discuss the issue. I asked city Councillor Patricia Ross and future mayor Mary Reeves to come and tell us what they knew. Several concerned individuals we didn’t know phoned and asked to attend. At a subsequent meeting a week later, we had 21 people, mostly strangers, in our livingroom, some sitting on the floor. Desperate to create some momentum, I said, “would anyone object to setting a goal of 10,000 letters from this community to the NEB?” I offered to write a form letter people could use.

The group enthusiastically endorsed the idea. We came to be known in the media as the SE2 Action Group. MLA John van Dongen supplied paper and the use of his photo copier. Several businesses made the letter available. Attendance at the meetings in our home swelled, with many people willingly sitting on the floor or standing. Our little group became a potent catalyst that gave people hope. Many citizens picked up copies of the letter and distributed them. The Berry Festival provided a booth, and there were line ups to sign the letter. This also happened at a huge community rally. The big city media took notice and showed up.

In the SE2 Action Group, close friendships were developing. We were coalescing into a tightly knit bunch, growing bolder in our strategies and tactics. For Linda and me it was fascinating to observe the community gaining hope and coming together. Defeatist letters to the editor ceased.

The NEB came to town and hundreds of citizens crowded into a large hall. So many had signed up as intervenors, the hearings required several days. We had reached our 10,000 letter goal but even so, NEB staffers cautioned us not to expect a favourable decision. To everyone’s amazement and SE2’s consternation, the Board ruled in our favour. Then the Federal Appeals Court also sided with us.

Countless citizens had worked tirelessly to accomplish what many had considered impossible. We were rewarded with feelings of deep satisfaction, fulfillment, and incredible exhilaration. Also with lasting friendships and an understanding that the impossible is possible.

Autumn is a great time to get out of the eddy of our own complacency. A time to begin reaping the rewards that come when we do something positive for our community.

Rhianfa Riel Of Crimson Tine Players

Rhianfa Riel
Rhianfa Riel

Rhianfa Riel had her home painted a deep purple, and the front door yellow. “I like to come home to bright colours every day after work,” she told Linda and me during a conversation in our home. Initially it seemed a tad bizarre but we would learn that her decorating preferences are not motivated solely by a fondness for radiant colours. They reflect an aspect of her life that most of us would attempt to keep secret.

Rhianfa and her husband Martin moved to Princeton in 2008 after working at a youth camp on Gambier Island for 8 years. In time they were hired by the Copper Mountain Mine. “That gave us the opportunity to have our own home,” she said smiling broadly. “It was something I had thought would never happen.” With 2 children (twins), a stable income and a comfortable home, their neighbours likely considered them a typical middle class family. The positive, upbeat aura about Rhianfa makes this an easy assumption. There was however, a troubling shadow constantly lingering over the family.

I was diagnosed with chronic depression in 2004,” Rhianfa said. “For years I felt victimized, frustrated, angry, and impotent to do anything about it. At times I was overcome by rage.”

Most of us know little about depression. It’s tempting to believe it’s a condition we can overcome by an act of the will and adopting a positive mindset. “It isn’t like that,” Rhianfa assured us. “Depression isn’t a choice. It isn’t just a bad day. It isn’t something you can talk yourself up from or out of. Mostly it’s a feeling of great sadness that clings to you and tries to pull you down into a dark hole.”

Listening to her, it became evident to me that depression has no compassion, no willingness to accept a truce, and no redeeming qualities. It crops up when it chooses and runs amuck in the mind. It can ravage a day, even a life.

For Rhianfa the healing of her life began with medication. Then she found a couple of knowledgeable, understanding counsellors. Also, several allies were already standing by her. “Martin believed in me. He listened and he told me he loved me. He is the reason I was able to deal with the rage. Also, my faith in God buoyed me up. It taught me I was loved unconditionally.”

Martin & Rhianfa Riel at their front door.
Martin & Rhianfa Riel at their front door.

Even now, depression comes to do battle with her psyche and emotions virtually every day. Fortunately she’s not apathetic or complacent.

Several years ago I joined the Crimson Tine Players,” she told us. “It’s an outlet for tension and creativity.”

They write the scripts and make the costumes and props. “We do 2 big performances each year. Also occasionally we present a murder mystery at the Vermillion Forks Restaurant. We write the scripts for that ourselves.”

Rhianfa Riel looking out the stage curtains. (photo supplied by Rhianfa Riel).
Rhianfa Riel looking out the stage curtains. (photo supplied by Rhianfa Riel).

Theatre has become a mainstay, a means of giving back. Every 8 weeks she takes 4 youths to watch a live production at the Kelowna Arts Studio. They pay their admission, she buys the gas.

This year we joined Theatre B.C. and entered the OZone Festival. We performed “Rabbit Hole”, a Pulitzer prize winning drama. It was serious and quite difficult, but we did well.”

She is president of Crimson Tine Players and sees it as an opportunity to challenge herself and help others develop confidence and social skills. “I’ve never been in the forefront of anything before. Now I’m meeting people from outside my comfort zone, from every philosophy and walk of life. Theatre is a great way to explore our potential. Anyone can learn to act.”

Rhianfa has practical counsel for individuals besieged by depression, discouragement, loneliness and other difficult conditions. It is, in fact, excellent advice for all of life. She said, “don’t fight it alone, and don’t give up. Eat well, sleep well, exercise, be with people, and chase sunshine. Practise kindness for no reason but kindness. Pray, or find some way to feed your soul. And, allow yourself to be loved.”

At the end she said, “I hold on to my family, to the love I have for them. I make that my reason to keep going. When it gets hard I thank God the hard days aren’t every day.”

A purple house and yellow front door probably aren’t essential for healing, but getting help and taking action are.

Princeton Music Festival A Success

When our friends Terry and Lis Friesen of Abbotsford visited here this past Saturday, they commented on how busy Princeton was. They did not know this was the weekend of the Princeton Traditional Music Festival. Linda and I enjoyed it for a few hours on Sunday.

Jon Bartlett, one of the main organizers of the festival.
Jon Bartlett, one of the main organizers of the festival.

I met Jon Bartlett. He and Rika Ruebsaat are the visionaries and primary organizers who make the festival happen. Jon told me the attendance for the weekend was an estimated 2,000. “It’s about the right number,” he said. “It allows for interaction between performers and the audience.”

There were 2 main stages, with canopies to shield performers and audiences from the sun. Saturday was a scorcher. Should have been a boon for sellers of ice cream and drinks.

"Liberty" performing.
“Liberty” performing.

We particularly enjoyed “Liberty,” a band from the interior of B.C. Cousin Verna’s friend, Bob Cameron (Cam) played the guitar in this group. They featured Irish music.

The Vancouver Morris Men, clad in white, performed a series of vibrant dances on the street. They required more space than was afforded by a stage. Accompanied by several musical instruments, there was a lot of strenuous kicking of legs, waving of large white handkerchiefs and some well timed verbal outbursts. A riveting performance. The Morris is a traditional British dance.

The Vancouver Morris Men
The Vancouver Morris Men

One non-musical event was offered by the Okanagan Valley School of Massage. This was a half hour massage by donation. Our friend Sharlene had come with us and took advantage of this service. It seemed to be the highlight of her day. I asked if she was a new woman. Virtually vibrating with pleasure at the memory of the experience she said “yes!”

For further information about the festival and Jon and Rika, see my blog a couple of weeks ago. (“Princeton Traditional Music Festival”).

Pow Wow Celebration Of Life

Lauren Terbasket thoughtfully explained the Pow Wow
Lauren Terbasket thoughtfully explained the Pow Wow

The Lower Similkameen Indian Band Pow Wow last year featured a beguiling pageantry of colourful regalia, swirling dancers, gifted singers, booming drums, symbolism, and a continuous line up for fried bread. Wanting to at least somewhat understand the cultural significance of the event, Linda and I recently invited Lauren Terbasket, one of the primary organizers, to our home. She arrived with her father John Terbasket, a respected band elder, daughter Tiinesha and granddaughter Nia. We learned that there are layers of meaning that would easily elude uninformed guests.

Held at the Ashnola Camp Ground on the Labour Day weekend, the Pow Wow is the second biggest in B.C. About 250 dancers and singers are expected this year from places like Alberta, Saskatchewan, Washington State and Montana. Spectators will number up to 2000.

Many had kind of lost the connection with our culture,” Lauren began. “But it’s coming back and this is a good feeling.” She reflected a moment and smiled. “It’s a social event, an opportunity to meet people, a celebration of life. We celebrate peace, interact with family, and talk about hunting, fishing, and life events. Our objective is to bring life to the people. Even if people don’t have much in life, when they come they sense the energy and the happiness. They feel drawn to the singing and dancing.”

When Linda and I talked with dancers and singers last year, they invariably mentioned the time required to do the intricate beadwork. “The beadwork is all different,” Lauren explained. “Often it has a history, possibly of the family. It may represent a dream, a vision, or a life event. The regalia and the dancing are judged in a competition. Prizes are awarded.”

When I asked who organizes the Pow Wow, Lauren said, “it’s mostly the Terbaskets and Allisons. Our family has 15+ members on the committee. We all pitch in at the event. My sister Karen is a trained chef so she runs the kitchen. Janet, an RCMP officer, assists with logistics and security. Kathy looks after admissions to the grounds. Wendy does the books, keeping tabs on the competition totals. (A 6th sister Geniene, an attorney, was killed in an automobile accident.) Community members contribute raffle items, clean and cook. We appreciate the community’s contributions.”

A Masters Candidate in education, Lauren views the Pow Wow as an opportunity to influence future leaders. “We teach the young ones certain protocols. How to conduct themselves honourably in public, be polite, socialize in a healthy way, and respect elders.” A lot of the singers and dancers go on to become council members and chiefs in their bands. The Pow Wow is a place to develop connections and public skills.

Photo credit to Cecilia Ralston. This photo was supplied by Lauren Terbasket & was taken about 4 years ago. Left to right: Tiinesha Begaye, John Terbasket, Krishon Terbasket, Lauren Terbasket
Photo credit to Cecilia Ralston. This photo was supplied by Lauren Terbasket & was taken about 4 years ago. Left to right: Tiinesha Begaye, John Terbasket, Krishon Terbasket, Lauren Terbasket

Band leaders understand the importance of starting the children at a young age. “If they’re exposed early, they dance,” Lauren told us. “We help them with beadwork to get them started. Older children help younger ones.”

Lauren’s eyes sparkled as she looked at her granddaughter sitting on Tiinesha’s lap. “Nia is 4 months. We’re already working on her regalia. Someone will hold her for the dancing.”

Nia &  her great grandfather, John Terbasket
Nia & her great grandfather, John Terbasket

Moving on to another aspect of the Pow Wow, Lauren said, “In the past our standing was measured by what we could give. Not by what we possessed. We are teaching the children the importance of giving back. When my grandson Krishon dances, he is giving of his energy and lifestyle. He will also give away some of the money he wins in the competitions. Some families will give gifts like blankets and food. It brings honour to their families and blessings to the community.”

She emphasized that the Pow Wow is an alcohol free event. “Bringing alcohol would be disrespectful. You represent your family and community. If someone shows up with alcohol, they will be asked to leave. Well, maybe they will be fed first, then escorted out. That hasn’t happened in recent years.”

During the weekend, the organizers and other band members work 18-20 hours a day. “Even though we’re exhausted,” Lauren said, “we feel a joy from giving to the community. The blessing is a big, beautiful family that truly understands the importance of giving.”

Superbly organized, this high octane, family friendly Pow Wow is an opportunity for the Similkameen community to join the band in celebrating life. The organizers invite everyone to come and enjoy this event.

John Terbasket Learned From Elders

John Terbasket
John Terbasket

Part 1 of 2. John Terbasket’s early life could have warped him to be bitter, angry, confused and addicted to alcohol. In a lengthy conversation with Linda and me in our home, he spoke candidly about his life as a member of the Lower Similkameen Indian Band, the people, experiences and understandings that made him a respected role model and leader rather than a disgruntled derelict. He expressed pride in his family and people, but didn’t attempt to gloss over the issues still confronting the band.

My father was an alcoholic,” he told us. “When I was about 7, my mother died. I went to live with an older sister, then with an uncle and aunt. At age 10 I stopped going to school and started cowboying for my Uncle Barney Allison.”

Wanting John to get an education, at age 16 Uncle Barney sent him to a residential school in Cranbrook. “They ran it like a prison,” John remembers. “At night young children cried and I tried to comfort them. We weren’t allowed to speak our language. If we did, they gave us a toothbrush and made us clean 3 flights of stairs.”

Later the residential school experience gave him an understanding that helped him as a band leader. “I went to a reunion 15 years after leaving the school,” he said. “Many of my former classmates had become alcoholics. Some were dead. I saw that the residential school had left the survivors feeling lost.”

John married Delphine at about age 20. Many of their friends were enmeshed in an alcoholic lifestyle and for a time they followed the same path.

Fortunately he was blessed with several excellent role models. His uncle Barney Allison told him, “You don’t have much education. You will have to work. Take whatever job you can get and learn as many trades as possible.” John accepted this advice and for some years worked in logging, orcharding and cowboying.

At age 30 he agreed to take his brother and sister-in-law to AA meetings two evenings per week for a month. “When the month was over,” he said, “they stopped attending, but I continued. I remembered how it had been in our home because of my father’s drinking. Sometimes there were no groceries. I didn’t want our children to grow up like that. My wife and I both turned away from alcohol.”

His Uncle Bobby, also a successful rancher, told him, “things are going to change. We will need people with an education.” When the band offered to send John to the Cody International Institute in Nova Scotia, he accepted. Not long after, he was appointed to be the band’s first administrator.

I came out of the orchard to be administrator,” he said. “I didn’t have the experience or knowledge to make things happen. The Elders helped me get a more clear vision of what was needed. Also, Uncle Barney had been elected band chief. He had a vision for our people. He got things started.”

John grew in the understanding that the residential schools, in denying children their language and culture, had stripped away their indigenous identity. “People were confused,” he said. “They didn’t feel they were part of either culture. They turned to alcohol to escape the memories of abuse in the schools. When they had children, they didn’t know how to be parents, so the confusion was passed to the next generation. There was dissension between those who had been in residential schools and those who had not.”

The Elders advised him “you have to help our people with sobriety before you start bringing in a lot of money. Then the money will be used for good purposes.”

Realizing he had much to learn, John listened carefully to the Elders. “Initially we emphasized education and jobs,” he said. “Then we began to understand that to become resilient and confident, young people needed to become immersed in the culture of our people. That would give them an identity they could be proud of. Five years ago we revived the annual Pow Wow at the Ashnola Camp Ground. A lot of our young people are participating.”

John Terbasket holding his great granddaughter Nia
John Terbasket holding his great granddaughter Nia

Now 78, John is grateful for his family and appears thoroughly grounded philosophically and emotionally. He credits his uncles and the Elders with enabling him to have a part in the positive band developments. Next week: the Ashnola Pow Wow.