Dwight Hall will be filled to bursting tonight as the communities of Powell River and Sliammon come together to honour Tla’amin Nation elder Elsie Paul.
The evening has been organized as a way to thank Elsie for her years of dedicated service to both communities. Elsie’s daughters Marlane Christensen and Ann Paul, along with Powell Riverites Ronnie Uhlmann and Donna Vance have been working together to make the evening a special, inclusive event. The evening will include performances from Tla’amin dancers, singer Drew Blaney, and the Academy Chamber Choir and Powell River Chorus. Pic Cred: Georgia Combes.
Following is some background information on the life of Elsie Paul, an amazing visionary and humanitarian, courtesy of the Powell River Museum archives:
Elsie’s great grandfather was ‘Captain’ Timothy who spent several years as a guide on a survey ship around the islands of Georgia Strait.
At this time it was not known that Vancouver Island was indeed an island until Captain Timothy guided the exploration ships through the islands of Georgia Strait and to the northern tip of Vancouver Island.
It is thought that it was during the performance of this work that Toma Timothy was given the name Captain Timothy.
When it came time for Captain Timothy to marry, his whereabouts were hunted down and he was taken to Cape Mudge to meet the girl his parents had arranged for him to marry.
Instead, Captain Timothy expressed his interest in marrying her sister, whose name was Ka’a xstales.
Elsie Timothy was born at Sliammon to Gilbert Francis and Lily Timothy. A few years earlier, a young girl (Elsie’s cousin) had died after her parents had been summoned from Sliammon to Sechelt to retrieve the sick girl. Elsie was named in her memory.
Elsie’s parents who already had two children and were about to relocate to Port Alberni were ill equipped to raise another child so it came to be that Elsie’s grandparents, Jim and Molly Timothy, also of Sliammon, raised her.
Elsie had 10 siblings, William, Elizabeth, Irene, Rita, Mabel, Barney, Nancy, Doris, Doreen and Gilbert.
For the most part, Elsie kept out of the reaches of the residential school system. Her grandfather towed their float home in and out of the coastal inlets – always one step ahead of the school officials.
Elsie was therefore subjected to only two years of residential school. She also attended school for two months each year when the family returned to Sliammon for the winter.
At the age of 16, Elsie was working in the fish plant at Redonda when suddenly the whole building shook. It was the great earthquake of June 23, 1946.
In 1948 Elsie Timothy married William Paul who transferred himself and his mother to Sliammon from Church House. Married 27 years until William’s death in 1977, the Paul’s had nine children, Glen, Sharon, Jane, Jeannie, Walter, Ann, Cathy, Marlane and Clifford.
While the children were growing up, Elsie did various jobs from shucking oysters to housekeeping at the hospital. In the 1950s the day school at Sliammon began to deteriorate. Instead of sending her children to the new Assumption School, Elsie opted to send her children to James Thomson Elementary in Wildwood. From there the children went to Brooks Junior High then on to Max Cameron Senior High School.
“I pushed my children to get an education,” she said, “and they have done well.”
Elsie did not ignore her own education. She continued to upgrade as an adult and achieved a grade 10 level. In 1972 she was hired by Sliammon to run the administration of Social Development. She spent weekends at UBC earning the credits for a certificate in Social Work.
When Judge Shirley Giroday conducted the swearing in ceremony on the appointment of Elsie Paul as Justice of the Peace, she said, “Elsie was our first choice for the appointment and we were very pleased she accepted.” (Justice of the Peace Court Appointment Cheered – PR Town Crier, September 18, 1989).
2008 was the 20th anniversary of the TsowTunLeLum (means ‘Helping House’ in the Nanoose language). Elsie has served as a board member since this Healing Program began in Nanaimo.
For the past number of years, Elsie has been involved in Inter-tribal Health Programs on Quadra Island, as an Elder/Support Person for the participants. She is frequently called upon to open events and ceremonies in both the Sliammon and the wider community. Elsie has given the Welcome and Opening Prayer for the Kathaumixw Choral festivals for several years.
Elsie holds an honourary doctorate from VIU, where she worked as an elder-in-residence. Last fall, Elsie received national recognition from the Canadian Historical Association for her book, ‘Written As I Remember It; Teachings (??ms ta?aw) from the Life of a Sliammon Elder.’ Elsie was awarded a Canadian Aboriginal History Book Prize and a Clio Lifetime Achievement Award. Elsie was also awarded the 2015 Armitage-Jameson Prize by Coalition for Western Women’s History for most outstanding monograph or edited volume published in western women’s, gender and sexuality history and an honourable mention for the Lieutenant-Governor’s Medal for Historical Writing in 2014.
Tonight’s event is sponsored by the City of Powell River, Powell River Regional District and Tla’amin. The free event starts at 7:00 pm, however, all tickets have been snapped up by residents eager to celebrate and honour Elder Dr. Elsie Paul.