This past Sunday morning, I had a chance to sit and visit with my friend and Culturally Committed Mentor, George Harris Jr. of Stz’uminus First Nation. George was sharing with me about a recent trip he'd taken to Kilgarde, where he had the opportunity to sit in the longhouse for a good amount of time. George told me that he often finds that these experiences provide him a chance to deeply reflect on who he is and how he contributes to his family and community. George said that on this particular day, he started thinking deeply about what it takes to be a Mentor and that, to truly know who you are and where you are going, you have to take the time to contemplate where you've come from.
Whenever George talks about his family, his love and admiration are palpable. He has shared on multiple occasions the gratitude he feels to have a place to share his ancestors' teachings within our Culturally Committed community and references his Westholme Grandma, his late mother Sylvia, his father George Sr., his Uncle Tom, and many more people who have guided his life. These are the individuals who have created the standard he strives to live by, and one of the aspects he values about their leadership is that they all consistently live to the same standard in public as they do behind closed doors. George said that because of the amazing people who raised him, he found himself wanting to hold himself to a higher standard than anyone would ever attempt to hold him to, and at times, the pressure has felt daunting. He explained to me that, as a younger man, he sometimes he made choices that were not in alignment with who he wanted to be. He then shared with me a story about a path behind his home that he has walked many times, connecting his yard to Thuqmin, a rocky point on Stz’uminus Territory. George explained:
"Striving to be strong in culture reminds me a lot of walking on that [familiar] path. When I am getting distracted, and my attention is getting pulled away to other things, I find that I walk it less and less. The path begins to be engulfed by plant life, which can make it harder to journey down and eventually harder to find. When I am walking in culture, I am walking that path every day. It is certain and familiar. When I am maintaining that path, not only am I taking care of myself, but I am also making it easier for others to find it and follow it as well. My own Father and family kept the path clear for me when I was struggling to maintain it for myself, and it is important to me that I provide the same strength and guidance for others. For me, that is what it means to be a good leader."
For anyone who has sat in circle on a Culturally Committed Community Call, you have witnessed the heartfelt intention George pours into this work. Prior to our meetings, he faithfully lights his candle, prays to his Ancestors for strength and wisdom, and then brings all of those good intentions to our community. George, I am deeply humbled for the opportunity to share in this work with you, as well as for the trust you have in me. Thank you so much for clearing the path for us all - huy ch q'u siem.
Kim at Culturally Committed