After the hard work and long effort of a group of volunteers, a First Nations friendship centre in 100 Mile House has finally found a place to become a reality.
Stemete7uw’i-A Gathering Place will be stationed in the annex behind St. Timothy’s Anglican Church, and is intended to offer holistic support and services to all people in a respectful, safe, inclusive and welcoming environment within the municipality.
Its dedication ceremony drew a large crowd of about 100 people to the church on April 30.
The availability of a special guest speaker, Dr. Martin Brokenleg, emeritus professor of Native American studies (Vancouver) and Native American theologian (South Dakota), partly prompted the timing of the dedication.
The full afternoon event began with opening prayers and an orientation, featured a lengthy presentation by Brokenleg, smudging and dedications at the annex, and then concluded with a meal and refreshments.
Stemete7uw’i project chair Mary Thomas of Williams Lake, formerly of Canim Lake Band, warmly welcomed the renowned doctor of psychology to the celebration and the community.
Brokenleg is well known for co-founding the Circle of Courage model of positive youth development, and spoke about the model’s portrayal of four growth needs of all children – belonging, mastery, independence and generosity.
He concluded with a story from his prairie tribe in South Dakota, where a young man in the 1600s was lost in unfamiliar territory and nearing death.
In the legend, the man began singing “his song” – a belief shared by the tribe today as a source of strength for important occasions in life. When he heard a woman’s voice softly singing along behind him, it gave him the courage to walk a bit further, then a little more, and so on until he found his village.
The young man then turned around to see it was not a woman singing, but a doe.
Noting that this soft singing of “another’s song” is a good example of how to support each other, he explained that gentle, quiet support can help someone who is struggling in life to keep moving forward, even one step at a time.
“I think that is what your friendship centre is going to do. It is going to say ‘if you come here, you’ll be safe. If you come here, you can move on’.
“I think you have a great tool here, you have a very good resource for creating strength….”
Thomas presented tokens of appreciation to Brokenleg, and thanked him for his contribution to the dedication ceremony.
Just a few minutes after his story, the group began moving out to the annex for the dedication.
When the first bunch stepped outside, murmurs of awe were expressed and many reported a doe was standing there, directly behind the church near the new friendship centre.
During the dedication, and after brief prayers and drumming, Thomas spoke about the success of past and current board directors in seeing this project now close to fruition.
She noted the official opening of Stemete7uw’i-A Gathering Place is expected to take place in June.
Both Dr. Brokenleg and St. Timothy’s Anglican Church were recognized and thanked for their support of the friendship centre.
Later, Thomas said many people were very pleased with the presentation and the board was very happy with the outcome.