What’s happening on the evening of Friday, June 15 at the Hall? It’s the community premiere of “Youth & Elders: wisdom for a brighter future”! This is PCT’s 65-minute film of Pender kids interviewing Pender Elders, about how people lived here in the past. These interviews give inspiring glimpses of community self-sufficiency, traditional skills, cooperation, and resilience. Here are a few more samples:
Solomon Reece is the son of Sharon Jinkerson-Brass and deceased Pender Elder Victor Reece, Tsimshian. Sol told us about his brother Tsawout, Tseycum, and other First Nations, who lived seasonally on Pender, sustainably harvesting their food. For 7,000 years, they cooperatively shared these islands, and buried their dead on these shores so that their spirits could move as they needed to, across the waters.
Pender is part of traditional Coast Salish First Nations territory, which stretches from Vancouver Island down to the shores of Washington and Oregon. This was the reach of speakers of a certain “Salishan” language family, characterized by multiple consonants without intervening vowels. Now this area is once again being called the Salish Sea, full of coastal treasures that we all share, and all must protect.
Moving from 7,000 to 135 years ago, 1877 was when the first permanent White settlers “pre-empted” land on North Pender. Washington Grimmer bought such land in 1882, and we were grateful to interview his granddaughter Bunty England. Bunty had stories galore, including about her uncle Neptune being born in a rowboat, and how her family met all of their food, energy, and trading needs.
Meanwhile in 1886, Arthur Spalding became the first permanent settler on South Pender, at a homestead that is now a park named for this wife, Lilias Spalding. Their grandson David Spalding gave us images of how past Penderites farmed and also had fun, including rowing to other islands to play tennis!
Another person we interviewed for the Youth & Elder Film is Barb Pender, family historian and niece of David Spalding. Her grandpa was a Pender distantly related to the English survey ship’s Commander for whom our islands are named. However, Barb’s grandpa was the Pender who got stuck here in a storm, was taken in by Arthur and Lilias Spalding, and ended up marrying one of their beautiful daughters.
Here we must acknowledge that our knowledge of Pender history is minuscule compared with that of Peter and Elizabeth Campbell and also John MacKenzie of the Pender Museum Society. Pender Community Transition and our filmmakers (Joanne Green and David Ohnona) are extraordinarily grateful for the fascinating, practical details and period photographs that these Museum experts shared with us.
I was equally fascinated to learn from Helen Allison that when she moved here with her husband Robert in the 1970’s, there were only about 400 residents. Helen herself had about 100 sheep, and soon became the island sheep-midwife for difficult cases, and also organized veterinarian visits at her home.
Final interviewee Andrea Spalding came to Pender about 20 years ago, and has researched and written a children’s book about old-time Pender – “Sarah May and the New Red Dress.” The story of past resilience that I most remember hearing from Andrea was about her father in wartime England. He and others would gather glass from bombed out buildings, and use it to make greenhouses to grow more food.
Ordinary human beings are amazingly capable of cooperatively figuring out how to get their needs met, even at times of great challenge. Our world will have challenges with sustainable energy, food growing, and re-localizing our communities. The future is brighter when we bring forward the best of the past!
Come find out more on Friday, June 15, 2012, when PCT will be have a very short and interesting annual meeting at 6:30 pm (all welcome), followed by the 7:00 pm community premiere of the Youth & Elder Film. DVD’s will be available too. See www.pendercommunitytransition.ca/youth-and-elder-film for more. Thanks so much to the funders who made this possible: Vancity, the CRD, Pender Local Trust Committees, and GreenAngels!
Zorah Staar, PCT Coordinator