January 8, 2018 - 9:00am
VIU’s beloved former Elder-in-Residence Ellen White was recognized with Canada’s highest civilian honour earlier this year.
Known affectionately as “Auntie Ellen” at VIU, the Coast Salish Elder touched the lives of many students, staff and faculty during her 13 years as an Elder-in-Residence. She is known on campus for her loving, generous and wise demeanour and for openly sharing knowledge. She received an Honorary Doctorate degree from VIU in 2006.
White, also known by her Coast Salish name Kwulasulwut, which means “Many Stars,” worked tirelessly over seven decades to celebrate First Nations culture and build bridges between people of diverse cultural backgrounds.
She was appointed to the Order of Canada for her outstanding contributions as an Elder and
community leader, and efforts to preserve the Hul’qumi’num language. White received her insignia from the Honourable Judith Guichon, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, during a special ceremony March 31 at Dufferin Place, Nanaimo.
The Order of Canada is one of the nation’s highest civilian honours that recognizes outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation.
“Grandma White has made so many amazing contributions. Her publications and work in the education system are an important foundation of building shared understandings and appreciation for the richness and depth of Coast Salish culture,” says Doug White III, her grandson and a Snuneymuxw Councillor. “Her advice and counsel is sought on a regular basis by people from the Coast Salish world for their own traditional work of namings and other ceremonies.”
Ellen White was an essential part of community and political work that supported the ground-breaking R. v. White and Bob (Supreme Court of Canada, 1965) litigation about treaty rights. It paved the way for the modern era of Canadian law on Aboriginal and treaty rights. She also wrote several books on Coast Salish beliefs and practices and created one of the first dictionaries of the Hul’qumi’num language.
“My mother has done significant work that has helped to build understandings between First Nations and non-First Nations people – this includes publishing multiple books on Coast Salish stories and her political work and advocacy that has helped to establish good working relationships and improved quality of life by securing essential services such as water and electricity for our community,” says her son and Snuneymuxw Councillor, Doug White Jr.
*This article originally appeared in the Winter 2017/18 edition of VIU Magazine. Check out more stories on the VIU Magazine webpage.