Nisga'a hereditary chief receives province's highest honour
A Nisga'a hereditary chief is one of 23 people honoured with the Order of BC, the province's highest form of recognition, at Government House today, July 22.
Chief Chester Moore, a hereditary chieftain from the Nisga'a Community of Gingolx, and whose Nisga'a name is Sim'oogit Hay'maas, is dedicated to the preservation of traditional arts in carving, cultural feasts, and dance groups.
He was privileged to have a traditional upbringing because he was one of the few not sent to a residential school. The late Dr. Frank Calder called him a "Nisga'a walking encyclopedia".
Moore has been actively composing songs, choreographing dance groups and drum-drills, teaching carving and cultural practices since the early 1970s.
He has assisted in the formation of cultural dance groups in the communities of Gitwinksihlkw, Laxgalts'ap, and Gingolx, and has taught cultural dancing in Terrace, Prince Rupert, and Vancouver.
He is proactive in adopting new media to support retention and promotion of culture, reflected by his incorporation of multimedia technology and utilizing this medium to preserve and share Nisga'a culture.
He was an advisor and researcher for development of a website (Gingolx.ca) that allows visitors to revisit the oldest villages of the Nisga'a, study their totem poles, and understand the cultural practices and ways of life that sustained this Northwest Coast people since time immemorial.
Moore has inspired others to learn about Nisga'a culture by sharing with his people, his guests, and his neighbouring nations and has done so in a humble and respectful manner. His enthusiasm and support for cultural survival of the Nisga'a is reflected in the many totem poles he has carved, murals he has painted, drums he has made, cradles he has constructed, songs he has composed, and drum drills he has choreographed.
His previous achivement was as a successful logger. In 1978 he started Zaul Zap Industry, a Gitwinksihlkw Village logging company, after working in the industry for 14 years. In three years of logging, the company exported four shipments of cottonwood to China and one shipment of spruce to Japan.
With the profits, Chief Moore built a regulation-size gymnasium valued at $1.3 million and a new church at a cost of $340,000 for the Village of Gitwinksihlkw, which consisted of 15 houses. He then retired from logging in 1989.
The Order of British Columbia is bestowed annually to citizens who have demonstrated outstanding distinction and achievement in any field. Since the order was first introduced in 1989, 370 people have been appointed.