Upper Nicola Christmas dinner marks a new beginning
The Upper Nicola Christmas dinner at the N’kwala school, was a memorable evening.
Our Chief Daniel Manuel, invited Joe Gardner, manager of the Douglas Lake Ranch, and his staff. Mr. Gardner has managed Canada’s largest working cattle ranch since he was hired by the former manager, Mr. Brian Chance.
The Douglas Lake cattle ranch was established back in 1884. Many people from back in the early 1940’s and 1950’s will remember Mr. Chance.
My dad, Billy McLeod, trusted Mr. Chance with his fair dealings in hay sales and cattle winter feeding on our land. Many of our people had hay fields and cattle. I can remember my dad, and my brother Clement getting up early in the cold winter mornings, and lighting up the old coal oil lantern to guide them to the barn. There they harnessed up the team of horses, hitched them up to the sleigh, then went to our fields, where they loaded up the sleigh with hay, and dropped the hay off with a pitch fork for the cattle. They would feed the cattle twice a day. This was their contract with the Douglas Lake cattle ranch.
There would be at least two hundred head or more in our hay fields. My dad would make sure the ice on the lake would be open for the cattle to drink. Also, blocks of salt would be dropped off for the cattle.
My dad was not the only one who had a contract to feed the Douglas Lake cattle. Other men on our reserve did the same. There was his sister, my Aunt Julianne, and her husband Charlie Williams along with their son-in-law Michel Tom. They had hay fields just across from ours. Then there was Alfred Charters and his wife, with their sons, and Andrew Caprian had a field that he rented out too. This was how our parents provided for us during the depression years. We never went hungry because of the working relationship between the ranch and our people.
Our Chief Manuel introduced Mr. Gardner to the people at the Christmas dinner and he spoke a few good words. I had never met him before, just heard about him from other people, so it was good that our chief invited Mr. Gardner to our dinner.
I approached Mr. Gardner, told him it was good to see him among our people, and hoped that his presence at the dinner may be the beginning of many more.
He said it was a while since he was with our people. I truly hope the relationship between Mr. Gardner and our Sylix people will be as friendly and workable as before. It is very important to build strong relationships with one another. Not just for the sake of past relationships, but for the present and future economy.
Our Sylix people at one time were very well to do — no one ever went without and there was no such thing as social welfare. If someone needed a place to stay, there was always room. Even during the tough years when food was rationed out, and even gas for your vehicle.
There were a lot of cowboys at the dinner, and you could tell they were the real thing, with their stetsons, denim jeans, scarves, and well-worn riding boots.
The entertainment was to die for — especially for people our age. My husband Lloyd truly enjoyed the music, which included the songs we remember from our young days, songs with words that one can actually hear over the music instruments. The band was Ray Tippe and Friends.
I had an opportunity to speak with Ray. He has been singing and playing the instruments since he was 15 years old. He has played many years, giving people the joy and happiness of hearing songs, which remind them of their young days.
We heard songs which we used to play on a wind up record player, or in juke boxes in the New York Kitchen, which was the hang out for most young people back then. It was a classic Chinese restaurant.
For sure, we will forever remember this Christmas dinner hosted by our chief and our Upper Nicola Band. We left the N’kwala school gym feeling good inside our hearts and our spirits. Lloyd and I agreed, like many others, that this was the best dinner ever.
Thank you goes out to our Chief Manuel, his assistant Christine Saddleman, and to Lori Brewer the assistant to Joe Gardner. I understand that Christine and Lori, communicated back and forth prior to the dinner to make sure the details of the dinner were accurate. Due to their diligence, everything went well, the dinner was a delight, and the guests felt welcome. This could be an historical event of new beginnings for the Upper Nicola Band.
There was a chance to offer monetary support to the people back east who are having difficulty in their finances. Their housing is like third world conditions, which is unacceptable. This should not be happening in Canada. You know, people think it’s all right to offer help to foreign countries, when there is such poverty right here among our First Nations people in Canada. Help our Aboriginal people, get them healthy, strong and prosperous, then we can offer help to other poor countries.
I feel good about offering our support to the people back east; that is real charity. The Bible tells us that charity begins at home.
Romans 12:10: “Love one another with brotherly affection, as members of one family, giving precedence and showing honour to one another.”
When we offer our help to those less fortunate than ourselves, we show them brotherly affection, as though they are family members. Affection can be shown in many different ways such as giving aid, whether it be in a financial way, or just telling someone that we care about what happens to them.
That is what makes our Sylix nation a gracious, loving nation. Our great-grandparents did the same; they shared their wealth with others who had less.
As Always in Friendship.