Elsie Paul to receive Honorary Doctorate Degree from VIU

December 1, 2009 - 3:07am

Elsie Paul, known on Vancouver Island for bridging cultures, will receive an Honorary Doctorate Degree from Vancouver Island University.

Paul, 78, is known in the Coast Salish region by her traditional name, Qazustala’s, which means a welcoming person with a wealth of knowledge, someone who shares her culture.

“This is a remarkably suitable name, given that Elsie is one of the few remaining Elders of Tla’Amin First Nation who is fluent in the Tla’Amin language and who has dedicated her life to creating healthy communities through learning,” said Arlette Raean, Campus Principal at VIU’s Powell River Campus.

“She has spent her life in service to others, in a variety of forms of justice reform and social activism, drawing on traditional teachings. She has set an example in living her own life and has shared these practices through her many professional activities.”

Paul’s life story includes attendance at residential school for only two years. She was raised by her grandparents who proactively avoided having her attend residential school if at all possible.

“I am speechless and very humbled to be recognized in this way by Vancouver Island University,” said Paul. “I thank everyone who supported this, including the Elders for whom I have a great deal of respect. I’ve always enjoyed working with people and being involved in my own community of Sliammon, the City of Powell River and the Vancouver Island community at large.”

VIU President Ralph Nilson said Paul has always believed in inclusion and the importance of connection with communities.

“It is our great honour to recognize Elsie Paul with an Honorary Doctorate Degree,” said Nilson. “There are few individuals who have dedicated their lives in service to others to the extent that Elsie has. The indigenous knowledge that she carries today is rare. Her memories reach back in time several generations to a time when First Nations traditions were a way of life.”

“Over the years, Elsie has developed an extensive network beyond the Tla’Amin community. She is called on to share Tla’Amin traditions at events throughout the Vancouver Island region, and is well recognized and respected for her ability to bridge the worlds of aboriginal and non-aboriginal people.”

Paul’s career has focused primarily in the area of Social Work, providing her with the opportunity to engage in and influence social change. She was one of the founding member of Tsow-Ten-Lelum House treatment centre, a healing lodge for Aboriginal people established over 20 years ago. Through her work as Justice of the Peace, in Victim Support Services and Aboriginal Policing, she has made a lasting contribution to the well-being of First Nations communities.

Her current role, as Elder-in-Residence at the Powell River Campus of VIU for the past two years, is a reflection of the inspiration she brings in support of learning and higher education, Raean added.

“Her commitment to creating healthy communities extends far beyond the context of First Nations – her life and teachings exemplify a quiet but very powerful form of leadership that is relevant to everyone.”

Paul will receive the Honorary Doctorate Degree at VIU’s convocation ceremony in January.


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