Louis Thomas remembers his mother as a tireless advocate of First Nations culture, language and history. That’s why he’s thrilled that Mary Thomas’s lectures have been preserved for posterity at Voice of the Shuswap community radio, CKVS-FM 93.7.
“She was an icon and she wanted to spread her message to other people,” Louis Thomas says. “Sharing. That’s what our people are all about. She shared her knowledge with everybody. This was the way of our people from time immemorial.”
Mary Thomas (1918-2007) was a vigorous champion of the language and culture of the Secwepemc people, influencing and inspiring generations. She had a keen interest in plants and wildlife and received many awards for her knowledge, teachings and activism. She was the first First Nations person to receive the Indigenous Conservationist of the Year award from the Seacology Foundation and received honorary degrees from the University of Victoria and the University of North Carolina.
Through a provincially funded Job Creation Partnership, a local First Nations woman got work experience in office administration, and digital archiving and editing by transferring the audio to a digital format. Hundreds of hours of cassette tape audio featuring Mary Thomas’s insights into First Nations life and culture have been preserved, cleaned up and archived for future generations. Her wisdom was captured from university lectures, community seminars and from local people who wanted to capture and preserve her knowledge.
Those lectures will be shared on Voice of the Shuswap community radio on a one-hour weekly show dedicated to her: The Legacy of Mary Thomas.
Throughout her life, Mary Thomas was always eager to help. She was so eager, in fact, that when people came to see her, she had her coat on before she had been asked for anything. Toward the end of her life, she would say, “There's just so much to do but I can't do it.” Two hours a day was all she was physically able to do. But she still pitched in as much as she could.
“People from all over were drawn to her. She had that kind of magnetism,” says Louis Thomas, 69. “About 3,000 people came to her funeral.”
There were some pleasant surprises unearthed during the digitization process at the radio station, including some First Nations songs recorded, circa 1923. Some are thought to be from the early 1890s.
“This is something new for a whole new generation of First Nations people and the rest of us,” says Voice of the Shuswap station manager Jeanette Clement proudly.
The Legacy of Mary Thomas will air on the Salmon Arm-based radio station CKVS-FM 93.7 on Monday evenings at 8 p.m. and will be repeated Thursday at 9 a.m. and Saturdays at 2 p.m. on Voice of the Shuswap, starting Feb. 22, 2016.
- The Legacy of Mary Thomas airs on CKVS-FM 93.7 and at: http://voiceoftheshuswap.ca/
- This 43-week long Job Creation Partnership was completed at the end of November and received more than $32,000 funding from the province.
- Job Creation Partnerships are part of the Employment Program of BC’s Community and Employer Partnerships, which fund projects that increase employability and share labour market information
- The Community and Employer Partnerships program is featured in B.C.’s Skills for Jobs Blueprint and provides more support to people who are struggling to gain a foothold in the job market. It helps build stronger partnerships with industry and labour to connect British Columbians with classroom and on-the-job training, while making it easier for employers to hire the skilled workers they need – when and where they need them.
- To date, the program has helped more than 900 job seekers benefit from work experience and funded nearly 200 projects throughout the province.
- In 2015-16, the ministry has committed to investing $331 million in employment and labour market programs under the Employment Program of BC.
- The Employment Program of BC is funded by the Province of British Columbia as well as the Government of Canada through the Labour Market Development Agreement.
- Funding supports 84 WorkBC Employment Services Centres throughout the province and the four components of the Community and Employer Partnerships fund:
- Job Creation Partnerships
- Labour Market Partnerships
- Project-Based Labour Market Training
- Research and Innovation
For more information on Community and Employer Partnerships: www.workbc.ca/CEP
To find a local WorkBC Employment Services Centre: www.workbccentres.ca
To learn more about the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation: www.gov.bc.ca/sdsi
For more information on B.C.’s Skills for Jobs Blueprint: https://www.workbc.ca/Training-Education/B-C-s-Skills-for-Jobs-Blueprint/Learn-about-Blueprint.aspx