— Heather Conn photo
Theresa Jeffries with Sunshine Coast NDP MLA Nicholas Simons at last year’s Defend Our Coast rally in Davis Bay, BC.
I was deeply saddened by the recent death of sishalh elder Theresa Jeffries (sxixaxy) at age 81. I had met her at events such as Defend Our Coast in Davis Bay and interviewed her for a documentary that I’ve written, produced, and directed called A New Way: An Organic Garden Changes Lives.
Theresa was indeed a special woman, full of grace and humour—her native name translates to “Laughing Princess.” Through public appearances and educational work, she shared her desire to ensure that as many people as possible, both First Nations and non-native, knew the destructive impact of residential schools and how much value one’s heritage holds. (The first sishalh to graduate from grade 12, Theresa entered residential school at age seven, remaining until grade seven.) She received the Queens Diamond Jubilee for her advocacy work and revitalized the sishalh language by helping to create a dictionary and curriculum development.
Sechelt chief Garry Feschuk reminded us at Theresa’s Celebration of Life ceremony on March 25: “Theresa lives in all of us. True love lasts forever.” He gestured to the crowd in the Sechelt band hall, filled to capacity with about three hundred of Theresa’s relatives and friends, plus elders, and people in two overflow tents outside, and said: “She was a very, very rich woman. These are her treasures.”
Garry told us that three days before she died, Theresa had appeared to him in a dream, surrounded by a herd of bighorn sheep. In honour of the memory of “our auntie,” as many referred to her during the ceremony, a procession of First Nations drummers carried a bentwood box to the front of the hall. It was made from a 750-year-old cedar from her home community.
I hope to receive Garry’s permission to dedicate the documentary A New Way to the memory of Theresa. She appears in the video, wearing her button blanket and ceremonial headdress, with Aaron Joe, CEO of Salish Soils. She expresses her pride and satisfaction in seeing the success of Aaron’s composting company and his long-term vision for the demonstration garden on Sechelt band land. She describes the negative impact of residential schools and how her people used to grow their own food and fruit.
Both Ivy Miller, who shot and edited the footage for A New Way, and I felt honoured to have met Theresa and experience her influence in the community and beyond. She was a treasure, indeed, and we will carry her in our hearts.
Read “A remarkable woman,” a tribute to Theresa Jeffries in The Coast Reporter.
Watch for upcoming information regarding the public release and screening of A New Day.
April 1, 2013 at 12:26 pm Comments (0)