Elder Jim Fountain had a chance to pose with Aboriginal actor, Nathaniel Arcand. Nathaniel was invited as a guest speaker for a ceremony honouring students in the Youth Skills Development program through the Conayt Friendship Centre in which NVIT was a partner. Jim was excited to get a shot with who he calls “the cool guy”! Nathaniel spoke about his experience as an actor, being a parent, overcoming obstacles and his love for music. He also treated the audience to a few songs on his guitar.
Hello! My name is Bernice Ball and I was born and raised in Merritt, BC. I am from Lower Nicola Indian Band and have been an Elder with NVIT for about 15 years! I have 3 children and 5 grandchildren and my only granddaughter graduated from the Health Care Assistant Program at NVIT. I have been very active my whole life. I have lots of ribbons and awards for track & field, silver buckles for horseback riding and both my husband and I enjoy mountain climbing. I used to climb a site in Hamilton, Ontario where the military would train and he preferred to climb in the Rocky Mountains. I didn’t like climbing there so he went with his buddies!
I like to sea-do on Nicola Lake and go quading in the bush. I have hunted and fished my whole life. In fact, I got my first moose while hunting with my uncle when I was just 17 years old! Not only do I hunt wild game but I skin, gut and clean my kill and cut up, vacuum seal, can and smoke the meat too. I hunt moose, deer and have hunted geese in the past. I’ve even eaten cougar meat which tastes like pork! I also clean and preserve the fish I catch. I have a large garden where I grow many different fruits and vegetables like raspberries, strawberries, onions, carrots, spinach and potatoes. I can my vegetables and fruit and have taught my granddaughter how to can fruit as well. Being responsible for the game that I hunt has taught me how to treat hides. I know how to clean and scrape away all the hair, membranes and guts. With the hides and leather I make mukluks, moccasins and clothing. I have used hides from all sorts of animals like coyote, cougar and bobcat. Bobcat fur is really beautiful! I try to get the hides during the coldest time of the year, December or January, because the fur is the thickest and makes for very warm clothing or footwear. I sew many types of clothing but in particular I like to sew dresses.
I am often a guest in many classes at NVIT where I teach students about cultural activities. One time I made 12” drums with a group. They learned the whole process from scraping the hides to soaking and stretching them over the drum frames. I brought gloves because I thought they would prefer to not have their hands in the smelly water but they didn’t mind at all! 8 drums turned out perfect but two had to be re-soaked. Once they re-stretched the hides on the drum frames, the remaining two were perfect like the rest. Another time I taught slow cooking with students and in the end they got to take home what they made and the slow cookers were given away as prizes. They liked that a lot!
When I was a child, I had to milk the cows before I went to school in the morning. And there was no bus back then, I rode a horse to school. I am the oldest child and have 3 younger brothers. I always tease Jim Fountain, one of the other elders at NVIT, because he used to hang around with my younger brothers and I would beat them up! Later when I married, my husband did his studies in Edmonton and he got hired right away in Hamilton, Ontario after graduating. Hamilton is a dirty city so we lived in Grisby, Ontario. We were there until we retired – 27 years! I managed a family run shoe store for 18 years and I learned a lot of important skills during that time like how to work with other small businesses, retaining and knowing our clientele really well. During this time I got to travel a lot to places like the Caribbean and England. I still keep in touch with people I met on these travels. When my husband and I retired, we returned home because we knew the hunting grounds and fishing holes. We settled on Mamette Lake and have acreage there.
Being at NVIT I help students, staff and faculty. I get to see students start and graduate from their programs. A lot of alumni still email me to share their stories and successes like new career opportunities, getting married or the arrival of a baby. I look forward to meeting new students and reconnecting with returning students. Come by anytime and visit!
Not only are the NVIT Elders’ here for you for your comforting needs, we are here for you for your growth, nurturing and spiritual needs as well. This past semester the NVIT Elders’ hosted a few events for the students allowing them to release their stress through indoor and outdoor activities.
A few students went out on a day of hunting with Elder Don Beauchesne in the Nicola Valley. They learned about gun safety, how to make a fire without matches, how to hide their scent from wild game and how to dress and pack a lunch for weather that was well below zero! The students didn’t end up getting anything that day, not in the sense of something they can send to the butcher anyway! But they did receive a day of learning and a more in depth appreciation for nature; now those students are new hunter enthusiasts!
Another event hosted by the NVIT Elders’ was a Nurturing Your Spirit event that was hosted during Winter Wellness Week. NVIT Elders Mary Louie and Ed Louie did a prayer/smudge circle and helped students cleanse them of any negative energy that was surrounding them. Some students say that afternoon with the Elders was ‘life changing’ and one student said their shoulder injury was gone afterwards! It is these types of events where students really get to know us, the Elders, on a more personal level. We love to help the students and staff in any avenue of their lives. Each person is unique and has their own worries and dreams and sometimes the air around individuals gets a bit smoggy with school, personal issues and things you can’t control- yet their is always hope, and love and the great creator watching over us and taking care of us and talking to us when we slow down and take a moment to listen.
Speaking of slowing down and concentrating, NVIT Elder Mia Hunt hosts cedar bracelet making, which very much needs patience and concentration. Many Aboriginal activities, like beading and cedar basket/bracelet making require the person to pay special attention to what they are doing and is almost relaxing to the point of meditating. Everyone needs a break from the hectic life and partaking in events around the campus like this is a good way to ground yourself again and to re-energize.
The NVIT Elders will be a part of more events in the New Year. We will be a part of the theme of ‘self care’ when students come back from their holidays. We are here for you, as you come back. Please check with your local Events Coordinator to see what events are coming up. If you have any ideas that you would like us to try to host, please let us know- our door is always open. We wish you well over the holidays, hoping you have many great memories with your loved ones and we look forward to seeing you back in the New Year.
The NVIT Elders’ Council hosted an Elders’ Tea March 21, 2014 inviting their friends from the surrounding areas within a 200 kilometre radius. Over 200 elders attended from as far as Seabird, Chuchua and Vernon and of course, the surrounding five founding bands.
The Elders’ Council set up the event with the main intention of socializing and catching up with their friends and the NVIT Elders’ Council also had a chance to explain their role as an Elder at a post-secondary institution.
The visiting elders were greeted with the option of either a hand or shoulder massage from our Health Care Assistant students and many of the participants obliged and enjoyed their spa-like treatment. The agenda included socializing, introducing the elders from the various communities, serving a nice luncheon. The event ended with comedy/motivational speaker Opie Oppenheim telling stories and jokes and playing the flute. Opie considers himself an Elder in training.
The visitors all left with a gift of a nice tea mug and fond memories of seeing their friends they haven’t seen for a while.
At this time it is not known whether this will be an annual event. The Elders’ Council wished everyone safe journeys home and wish them well in their lives and hope to cross paths again.
NVIT is proud to say we have an Elders’ Council of 20 members. The Elders offer guidance to our students, faculty and Education Council. The Elders are available on campus everyday from Monday to Thursday and can also be requested to be in classrooms or for personal visits.
The NVIT Elders are very involved in the NVIT community, often hosting events like Elders’ Tea, Cultural workshops, cooking lessons and sweats. The Elders want you to know they are here for you. They will be that ear to listen to your problems, they want to be the arms when you need a hug and they said they’ll also be that ‘boot’ you need when you need some encouragement to keep on going with your studies.
The Elders may be reached at their offices (Merritt) 250.378.3350 (Vancouver) 604.602.3401 or the Elders’ Coordinator Pat Brown 250.378.3306 Through these blogs you will have a chance to learn about each of the Elders on a personal level. As you can see, they are very open and honest and really want the best for every person they cross paths with. Don’t feel shy to visit or call.
Every year and it never fails, each graduating class gives gratitude to the Elders’ Council in their outgoing speeches and most graduates say it is the Elders who have impacted their post secondary experience. Their presence on campus is a source of pride and comfort for the Institute.
My name is Don Beauchesne. I’m a Métis from Saskatchewan, I can speak a bit Michif (I used to be fluent when I was a kid) and I can’t dang the jig like I once could but I can give it a go now and again. My life is horses, rifles and hunting, oh and my grandson Topper Boy. That’s not his real name but that’s what I call him. I have been with NVIT for a few years now and I like sharing my hunting stories with the students or teaching them about raw hide work, which is a Métis trade. Some other things I can teach the students are ‘how to make a fire without matches or a lighter’ and ‘how to get the human smell off you so you can camp outside for hunting and not have the bears bothering you’. I learned all of this firsthand and I wasn’t taught it in the nice way I teach now. When I was first learning how to shoot, if I missed my target, my elders would give me a good hard cuff on the side of the head. I tell you I never missed very often. I actually don’t remember missing ever after the first time. But you know what, I learnt quickly. I was a foreman at the age of 14 for a carpentry crew. It wasn’t easy being Métis. The white people thought I was a ‘lazy Indian’ and didn’t accept me and the Natives thought I was a ‘showoff’ because I would always show up early and keep to myself and they didn’t accept me either. But it was just the way I was. I spent a lot of years in carpentry and even built my own house, the same house I’ve been living in since ’81. I purposely made the ceiling height 7’6’’ instead of 8’ to conserve energy; it’s cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Topper Boy is so proud his papa built his own house. He is like me and he’s into hunting and horses too. He’s 5 years old now and I’m 73 and I play with him and I mean I play with him at his level. I get down on the floor with him and play; adults don’t do that enough these days. Topper plays hunting games and he comes and finds me and says ‘Poppa, I shot that deer’ and he has his animals lined up and says ‘now we need to follow the blood trail’ so off we go following the blood trail. There’s not much more to share about me other than what I’ve said. If you’re interested in hunting, rifles or horses than come and have a chat with me and maybe I can teach you something or you can teach me something.
My name is Jim Fountain. I like to say I’m Jim Fountain from Fountain because there’s an interesting story behind it dating back from the 1800’s. My grandfather came over the valley from Lillooet and landed himself a job at the Douglas Lake Ranch. His employer told him ‘you people need a second name now’. My grandfather says, ‘I don’t have one’ then his boss says ‘well, where are you from?’ my grandfather says, “Lillooet, Fountain’… ‘then it’s settled, that’s your second name (surname) Fountain’. Now, I carry on that name, Fountain, and I passed it on to my kids, 3 sons and 3 daughters. I have been an NVIT Elder for 5 years representing the Nooaitch area and I enjoy every bit of it.
I like to share my stories. I’ve done it all. I’ve been a logger, I’ve been a rancher, I’ve been a drinker and I’ve been a fighter. And I’m not ashamed of any of it. It is who I am and I’m sitting here today; I’m not trying to lie about it. I’ll tell you something though, I was sober going on 37 years now and I am sure the creator was the one who brought me back to life, literally. I was in the hospital from drinking and my heart stopped 3 times, so I had to be revived three times. The last time almost didn’t happen but I regained consciousness. My doctor was waiting for me and as soon as I woke up and he was shaking his finger and pointing at me, like ‘you’re pretty lucky, kid’. From that moment I made a vow with the Creator to change my ways. I see that doctor now and again and he says ‘How you doing Jimmy?’, I say “I’m doing good, still on the wagon!’ and I wave. Like I said, I don’t hide anything. People need to know you have struggled and they’re not alone. I used to think I had ‘reasons’ to live that lifestyle. My whole family passed away when I was 8 years old. I happened to stay at my aunty’ s one night in town; she wanted to show me how it was to live in town, away from the reserve. On the way back home, my parents hit a nasty corner, it was winter and the roads weren’t paved like they are today. They were narrow and rough and they ended up in Nicola Lake, my mom, my dad, my brothers and sisters, I was the only one left. They didn’t have the Ministry back then so nobody placed me in a home. I had to work for my food, packing wood, ranching. Anyways, having that upbringing made me think bad thoughts, made me think I had ‘reasons’ to do the things I was doing and to feel the way I was feeling; I wanted to join my family. But I learned from my Elders it wasn’t my time yet and I learned those were just ‘excuses’, not reasons. I tell people today, bad things happen and you have to get over it and you have the power to change your life around. It’s gonna be difficult but when you get there it will be good. Today is the best times of my life.
Good things happen too. Me and my wife and kids lived in a little shack, it had a little lean to it. It suited us fine we thought. Then one day this fellow from the NDP was coming around and I didn’t know about government and voting and the NDP fellow says to me, “I’m looking to get into the government. I need votes though. Let’s talk about this in your house. Where is it?” and I was standing in front of our shack when he said it. And I said ‘it’s right here’. He couldn’t believe it. He said ‘show me’. Then I showed him inside, there was the blue sky you can see through the roof and there was a spot for the cook stove. This NDP guy was shocked. He said ‘Look, I want to get into the government. I need votes. I need your support. I promise if I get in, I will build you a new home.” After he left, I went around rustling up some votes, talking about the NDP, telling our people about government. He got in. Some months down the road the fellow comes back and says “Jimmy, do you remember me? I got in and I’m gonna build you that house.” And that’s the same house I live in and it is why I always vote for NDP.
I enjoy talking with people. I help out the people on the streets. I give them a home sometimes and drive them to places where they need to go. Sometimes it’s the little things that can change someone’s life. I like talking to the students at NVIT too. I have plenty of stories or I can help them because like I said, I’ve been through it all. So this is a little bit about me. Stop in anytime when I’m around. The NVIT Elders’ Council really wants to be here for the students so don’t be shy.