Cowichan Elder Luschiim receives Honorary Doctorate of Letters from Malaspina University-College

June 18, 2007 - 7:55am

Respected Cowichan Tribes’ Elder Luschiim, a.k.a Arvid Charlie, received an Honorary Doctorate of Letters degree at Malaspina University-College's convocation June 5.

Malaspina Anthropology instructor Helene Demers nominated Luschiim for the award  in recognition of his extensive contributions to the teaching of Coast Salish culture and traditions in a wide range of contexts, as well as his commitment to the protection of the environment and preservation of the Hul'qumi'num language.

“Luschiim is a truly remarkable person who is consistently described as spiritual, wise, gentle, generous, patient, honest, kind and extremely knowledgeable in many areas,” said Demers.

“He has dedicated his life to preserving and protecting his culture, language and the environment for generations to follow and he shares his knowledge generously with others. He truly serves as a bridge between First Nations and non-First Nations people. I can think of no one who more embodies the spirit of respect for diversity and life-long learning so valued at Malaspina University-College.”

Born in Quamichan, one of the Cowichan Villages, in 1942 to Violet and Simon Charlie, Luschiim has lived in the Duncan area all of his life.

He went to grade eight in the way of ‘formal’ education and after that, he did a variety of things to support himself.  At the age of 14, he began canoe pulling (paddling) competitively and over the years he pulled or was skipper of many racing canoes.  In the 1960’s ‘he got a wife and family’, and began logging to support them.

In the early 1970’s, Luschiim began to work on different contracts from the Cowichan band.  About 10 years ago, he began to wonder about his future, and asked himself what he had to offer his people and community. His answer was language, knowledge of his culture and of environmental ways. Since then he has been involved in traditional use studies and salvaging the Hul’qumi’num language.

Luschiim also began learning about plants and their various uses and properties at the age of three from the Elders in his family.  Since then, he has made it a personal priority to gather knowledge about the natural environment. 

“Luschiim is a life-long learner who has taken the initiative to obtain knowledge from primary sources as well as his own experience, and share with others,” added Demers.  “He’s spent a great deal of time on the ocean, river and in forests, listening to nature and learning the Creator’s secrets.  He is always willing to share with others.”

Malaspina awards honorary doctorates to encourage a standard of excellence and innovation which is exemplary to students, faculty and staff, and to society in general. Candidates exhibit a record of outstanding distinction and achievement in an area related to Malaspina University-College’s mission, including scholarship, research, teaching, the creative arts, humanities, business and industry, international affairs or public service.

“Mr. Charlie has shared the breadth and depth of traditional knowledge with students both at Malaspina and other post-secondary institutions for many years,” said Malaspina President Dr. Ralph Nilson. “His contribution is significant.”

When addressing graduates at Malaspina’s recent convocation ceremony, Luschiim shared an important message passed on to him by his 96-year-old grandfather. “Learning never comes to an end,” he said. “Keep expanding your knowledge in all areas. Do all the things you want to do when you are able and comfortable, but don’t ignore or neglect your families in the process.”

Luschiim has given countless talks on many topics at Malaspina and at the University of Victoria. His willingness to share his knowledge with students has deepened their learning and promotes the much needed understanding and respect of indigenous ways of knowing,” said Demers.


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