Culture, Heritage, and Spirituality (2018)
Secwepemc Nation, British Columbia
“To our Indigenous youth: Always remember that you have only one arrow left. It’s education. Use it wisely. We, your elders, sacrificed a lot to ensure that you have this arrow.”
Despite being discouraged from speaking her language for eight years at St. Joseph’s Residential School, Kye7e Cecilia DeRose is a champion of language revitalization. Elder DeRose has taught Secwepemctsin to young children, elementary and high school students, and helped develop university Indigenous language programs. She continues to ensure that Secwepemctsin is kept alive through her language apprentice with whom she has spent over 300 hours in an immersion program.
In the early 1980s, Cecilia sat on the Katie Ross Inquiry in Williams Lake, which recommended that interpreters be provided to Indigenous people and that public servants be provided cross-cultural training. Cecilia took it upon herself to implement the recommendations by taking the interpreter course and being available to interpret and provide cross-cultural training for the hospital, RCMP, and courts.
Cecilia’s dedication to her culture and her positive outlook make it easy to see why she’s often the first elder called upon for advice and guidance. She recently created a Hide Tanning Kit and Instruction Book for the Northern Shuswap Tribal Council and has assisted in developing and teaching a course on Secwepemc ethnobotany. She has been an advisor on a research document called Culturally Safe Dementia Care, The Story of Ranching in BC: Buckaroos in BC, and Price Paid: The Fight for First Nations Survival.
Cecilia lives by what her father told her the first time she was taken by the missionaries to residential school: “Always be proud to be an Indian.”