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.

Hedley Miner’s Cabin

Information plaque at Hedley Heritage Museum
Information plaque at Hedley Heritage Museum

It’s known in Hedley as “the Miner’s Cabin,” and we speak of it with considerable respect, almost reverence. Who the miner was, nobody appears to know. He vanished many years ago without leaving a trace, other than the cabin. Not even Hedley historian Jennifer Douglass, my usually well informed and reliable source, could enlighten me.

The lack of knowledge about the phantom human being who built this cabin niggled at me. I wondered what sort of man he might have been, and what had drawn him to this remote, mountainous area? I decided to record my best guess as to his character, history, ambitions, values, and eventual demise. He deserved a solid name, so I called him Bert. No one locally ever learned his last name.

I’d heard of men being sent by their family from England to Canada because their unruliness embarrassed them. Bert may have been such a man.

Considered a “Black Sheep” by his wealthy English family, Bert might have been shipped to Canada in the hope a new beginning in a young nation would enable him to grow in maturity. The family supplied him with a living allowance initially and he was therefore known as a “remittance man.” I’d heard my father speak of such a man in an Ontario lumbering camp.

Stung by rejection and abuse and apprehensive of intimate relationships, Bert made his way to British Columbia. Wanting to redeem himself in the eyes of his family, he became a lone wolf prospector, tramping in unexplored areas in hope of coming upon a yet undiscovered rich vein. It would be understandable if a strong willed man with gold fever decided to take his chances and work independently. In Hedley, six hotels, a red light district and a number of flourishing businesses had sprung up to service the miners working deep underground on Nickel Plate Mountain. Certainly a man could believe that by working alone he might stumble across an undiscovered vein that would make him incredibly wealthy.

Exploring the difficult mountainous terrain he lost the fat and flabby muscles of his previous decadent lifestyle. He became determined, rugged and resourceful. With the help and advice of a friendly trapper, he constructed the cabin near the base of Nickel Plate Mountain.

If Bert was indeed an independent prospector, his quest for the mother lode was almost certainly in vain. Had he struck it rich, even his secretive, private nature could hardly have prevented the strike becoming known. Maybe it didn’t matter to him at the end of his days though. An old bearded man, lying on his hard bunk at night, he could find ample satisfaction in knowing he had not frittered away his life with self-indulgence and dissolution.

************

While Linda and I were in the Museum last week scouring the albums for early pictures of the cabin, Gerry Wilkins came in. He’s pretty computer savvy and has devoted hundreds of hours to researching Hedley’s past. I said, “Gerry, do you know anything about the Miner’s cabin?”

He replied, “It was moved to the Museum from the corner lot where the motel is. I was involved in moving it. Before that it was on Vince and Audrey Flynn’s property, next to the motel.”

He then led me into the bowels of the Museum where there is a computer in a cramped office I didn’t know existed. Examining Fire Insurance Map records, Gerry concluded there was a record of the Miner’s Cabin in 1908 and also 1937. He discovered one photo of a cabin that has similar windows and also logs of similar dimensions.

Photo of a cabin of that era (courtesy of Hedley Heritage Museum
Photo of a cabin of that era (courtesy of Hedley Heritage Museum

Since those early days, the cabin has endured the ravages of cold winters and hot summers. Two years ago the Museum Society had the roof replaced. This summer the walls were repaired. Wide cracks had developed between the logs. These were covered with 2 inch wood strips and sealed with caulking, inside and out. Windows were also either repaired or replaced, and the door was rebuilt. The work was done by Red Seal carpenter Terry Sawiuk, with the assistance of Bill Day and Josh Carter. These three local men put in many hours of volunteer time. The cabin will long remind present and future citizens of Hedley’s once vibrant, swashbuckling past. I’m sure Bert would be pleased at the now spiffy appearance of his erstwhile home.

Terry Sawiuk, Josh Carter & Bill Day with the Miner's Cabin
Terry Sawiuk, Josh Carter & Bill Day with the Miner’s Cabin