Elsie Paul honoured with a degree

Wed. Mar. 3/10
Elsie Paul honoured with a degree
Mark Kiemele

Sliammon First Nation elder Elsie Qazustala’s Paul received an honorary doctor of letters from Vancouver Island University (VIU) in January.

Assembly of First Nations Chief Shawn Atleo said the 78-year-old inspired everyone by her lifelong support for learning and higher education.

“Elsie’s commitment to creating healthy communities extends far beyond the context of first nations,” said Atleo who is also the VIU chancellor. “Through her life and teachings, she has demonstrated a quiet but very powerful form of leadership that is inspirational.”

He said that Elsie’s traditional Coast Salish name of Qazustala’s was “remarkably suitable” since it means a welcoming person with a wealth of knowledge, someone who shares her culture, “She is one of the few remaining elders who is fluent in the Tla’Amin language and who has dedicated her life to creating healthy communities through learning.”

Snuneymuxw Chief Doug White, a VIU alumnus, said Elsie inspired him to become the kind of lawyer he is today. He said he stayed with her when he worked with the Tla’Amin First Nation on treaty issues.

“I came to know what a truly amazing woman she is. Her house was always full of grandchildren, visitors, elders and people that were coming to learn from her, to gain knowledge from the teachings she had to offer our people.”

Elsie, who has served as elder-in-residence at VIU’s Powell River campus, thanked her ancestors and the university for working toward inclusion of First Nations people in broader communities.

“That has always been my goal,” she said. “I no longer want to sit at the back of the bus. I want to be part of the human race. I want to be involved and I encourage my children, my family to be involved and not to consider themselves not worthy to be sitting with the rest of the world, moving with the rest of the world.”