This National Indigenous Peoples Day, and every day, we're honoured to elevate the stories and voices of our Indigenous team members and partners. The following story was written by Bonnie George, a Witset member of the Wet’suwet’en Nation and one of Coastal GasLink’s Community Workforce Accommodation Advisors (CWAA).
My mother, a traditional Wet’suwet’en Matriarch dedicated herself to teaching my siblings and I the traditional and cultural way of our ancestors – I recall fondly her ability to share our heritage through her art.
She was masterfully artistic in tanning moose hides and creating beautiful traditional beaded moose-hide crafts. Over the years, she gifted me many pieces including purses, slippers and jackets – all designed with love and with a deep connection to our traditional way of life.
It’s hard to pinpoint a singular significant piece; however, if I were to choose a piece that is most sentimental, it would be this shawl that was gifted to me for a special occasion. I still remember receiving it for the first time and feeling the hide she had tanned herself – it was as soft as velvet.
I have worn the shawl twice in my life. The first was for a Balthats (Potlatch) when I received my traditional name, Gudsiluk, meaning Small Snare. The second time was at an International Restorative Justice Conference in the Netherlands where I spoke of the Wet’suwet’en traditional way of restorative conflict resolution. Our traditional way is now protected and recognized by Canada as an equal justice system to its own.
In gifting me the shawl, my mother passed on more than an object; she passed on the tremendous strength and resilience of our people.
Today, on National Indigenous People’s Day, I am honoured to have the ability to elevate the story of my mother’s shawl and its significance to me as a Wet’suwet’en woman, mother, grandmother and sister. It represents the respect, honour and integrity I devote to my heritage, something I feel privileged to continue to share with those I cross paths within my day-to-day life. For me, when we can openly share our stories, we can learn and ultimately heal together.
I recall a conversation with my grandfather Thomas George, who held the Dinee Za name Gisdayway, when I was very young, about 4 years old. He told me to learn the white man’s way but don’t forget your own ways as the world is going to change, and we need to learn to work together.
I take great pride in the work I do within my community – near and far; and in my role as a CWAA to give my people a voice and representation, while ensuring our traditional knowledge, language and culture is protected for future generations to come.
I hope that as people reflect and take in the celebrations of National Indigenous Peoples Day, that they witness the resilience of the Cultures of the First People’s and their Traditional Practices.
I hope and pray for Harmony and Unity for all our families and Nations in this beautiful country we call home so that we may all move forward together as one.
Bonnie George with CGL CWAA Coordinator Denine on site