Give me those old-time teachers any day

Mel Bevan remembers a time when people could help each other without being told “you need permission or you are not qualified"

By Mel Bevan

There was a time when we were able to do things to help each other without being told “you need permission or you are not qualified.”

When I was growing up in old Kitselas in the valley called Endodoon the people were still able to do things without permission, sharing what they had, and each doing their part to make life enjoyable.

One of those people I will never forget is Henry Bolton. Henry was the brother of Chris Bolton and the late husband of Minnie.

Henry enjoyed teaching. When he was in his late teens and early twenties he spent much of his free time teaching us kids.

No one asked him to teach, and no one paid him to teach us. He simply enjoyed teaching those he cared about.

Henry’s mother Flora read music and played the organ in the Salvation Army church.

He learned enough music from his mother to become a pretty good guitar player and country singer.

He taught us enough about guitar playing and music to spark a lifelong interest in music in some of us.

Morris Mason and I still carry the tradition to this day.

Henry was also a boxer and he was well known up and down the Skeena for his dressing gown with the name ‘Hank’ in big letters on the back.

He not only taught us to box,  he also taught us to stand our ground, to get over our fears, and not give up even when no one backs you up.

One of the most important lessons we learned was physical fitness. Henry taught us the value of constant exercise, of staying fit and keeping healthy.

It was not long after World War II there was still a shortage of steel so the weights he taught us with were made of wood.

We learned it was the exercise that mattered not the equipment.

Today I still exercise at home every day. I skip rope, and once in a while I startle Zoe when I take off running.

The lessons of Henry Bolton and others like him helped shape lifelong habits in a way of life that makes us who we are.

We can only learn from other Kitselas people; professionals cannot teach us our identity nor can they help us maintain our culture as Kitselas people.

Today Henry would have been told you are not a professional, you can’t do that without a criminal record check, or you don’t have permission to teach.

When we give away control of our everyday lives to others we lose far more than we gain.

I have had many teachers in Kitselas over the years.

It is these teachers that we must remember and keep alive their teachings.

Mel Bevan is a member of the Kitselas First Nation and its chief negotiator on its treaty negotiations with the federal and provincial governments.

The Kitselas have approved a land claims treaty agreement in principle and are working toward a final document. It will also require a ratification vote.