On July 30, the Taku River Tlingit First Nation welcomed a 140-year-old Chilkat robe back home.
“It was a very beautiful ceremony,” says Lorna Paul, Indigenous Patient Navigator for the province’s north. “The emotions were varied. I could feel joy, hurt, and anger. The people were extremely happy to have a piece of their history returned to its homelands. Personally, I felt very emotional.”
Chilkat robes are worn during ceremonies and dances. The treasured robe had likely been made for a Hereditary Chief in the 1880s. In 2022, the robe was put up for auction at Waddington’s Auction house in Toronto. Peter Wright, an avid art collector who had grown up in Atlin, came across it online and contacted Wayne Carlick, renowned carver and cultural coordinator for the Taku River Tlingit First Nation. After determining the robe belonged to the Taku River Tlingit, Wayne purchased it online for a total purchase price of over $45,000. Funds were raised in part by the community who wanted this piece of their history returned home.
To celebrate the return of the Chilkat robe, the Taku River Tlingit First Nation, Carcross Tagish First Nation and Teslin Tlingit Council provided a celebration of dance, food and cultural knowledge over the three-day period. About 4,500 people attended the festivities in a town with a usual population of about 300. The Smithsonian Institution donated a UV-blocking, heat-controlled case to display the robe.
The Taku River Tlingit First Nation first contacted BCEHS in April to support the event. Two BCEHS Indigenous Patient Navigators and 11 paramedics were on-site to attend to any medical needs and to provide support if a person was triggered in any way.
“The BCEHS tent was well-received,” Lorna says. “No major incidents occurred – just some minor cuts and blisters. Some community members came and gave their thanks to the team that were there to assist.”
Community Paramedic /Acting Unit Chief Scott Cole and Clinical Ops Manager Jonathan Brnjas coordinated BCEHS coverage for the three-day event. Jonathan was also on-site for the duration of the event. The BCEHS Planned Events team provided support by coordinating additional staff resources, supplying an additional ambulance from Fort St John, shipping supplies, and working with all partners to ensure they were ready.
“I was humbled and honoured that BCEHS was asked to participate and be invited into this truly sacred space,” says Jonathan. “Members came from across the province, and everyone worked hard to collaborate with the local First Nations and represent BCEHS to the highest standard. I want to thank everyone who attended for their hard work and professionalism.”
BCEHS Planned Events is responsible for the delivery of paramedic services at mass gathering events like festivals, parades, and sporting events throughout BC. The team supports numerous events each year across British Columbia and provides regional upstaffing as required.