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Annual Jeanne Clarke Awards held at the Railway & Forestry Museum

Nominees, winners and Library Board members at 35th annual Jeanne Clarke Awards reception. Submitted photo

The Prince George Public Library Board hosted the 35th annual Jeanne Clarke Awards at the Central B.C. Railway and Forestry Museum on Sunday afternoon. Nearly 90 people attended the event.

The Exploration Place and the late Lheidli T’enneh elder Mary Gouchie were honoured with the Jeanne Clarke Local History Award for Service for the in-house exhibit Mary Gouchie: Hubodulh’eh.

The exhibit, which ran from September 15, 2019 to January 6, 2020, focused on the prominent elder’s commitment to language revitalization. Gouchie played a pivotal role in the revitalization and recovery of Lheidli T’enneh dialect of Dakelh by assisting to document the written and spoken language.

When introducing the award, Katherine Carlson, Executive Director of the Central B.C. Railway and Forestry Museum, praised The Exploration Place for leading the way in collaborative work and community engagement for the past twenty-five years. The Exploration Place continues to work on language preservation initiatives. They are currently working with the Lheidli T’enneh on the digitization of a large collection of oral histories spoken in Dakelh.

Members of Gouchie’s family accepted the award on her behalf.

The library board awarded four Awards for Publication this year. 

Local business person Curt Garland was recognized with a Publication Award (Local) for Uphill Both Ways. The book describes Garland’s journey from owning a single hauling truck to current day and his two successful large enterprises: Lomak Bulk Carriers and the Hester Creek Estate Winery.

Tyler McCreary accepted a Publication Award (Regional) for his book Shared Histories: Witsuwit’en-Settler Relations in Smithers, British Columbia, 1913-1973. The book centres on the story of the development and eventual destruction of a Witsuwit’en settlement, known locally as Indiantown, along the fringe of Smithers, British Columbia. Shared Histories details how generations of Witsuwit’en families struggled to build a place for themselves in town despite local, provincial, and national efforts to push them to the fringes. In his video acceptance speech, McCreary noted that although his book addresses historic discrimination against the Wistuwit’en, those same issues endure today.

Ross Hoffman, a Professor of First Nations Studies at the University of Northern British Columbia, accepted a Publication Award (Regional) for Song of the Earth: The Life of Alfred Joseph. Song of the Earth chronicles the life of Alfred Joseph, a Witsuwit’en hereditary chief who grew up in Hagwilget, on the Bulkley River near Hazleton. Alfred Joseph was the leading plaintiff in the landmark Supreme Court of Canada decision in Delgamuukw-Gisday Wa v. British Columbia, which relied on the testimony of Joseph and other hereditary chiefs to establish Indigenous right to land title.

The final Publication Award (Regional) went to journalist Jessica McDiarmid for Highway of Tears: A True Story of Racism, Indifference and the Pursuit of Justice of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Brenda Wilson accepted the award on behalf of McDiarmid, who was unable to attend. Wilson is the sister of Ramona Wilson, who disappeared from Smithers in 1994 at the age of 16. Tragically, her remains were found 10 months later. Wilson praised the time and care that McDiarmid took when telling the stories of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and their families.

The Jeanne Clarke Award is presented annually to individuals or groups for outstanding contributions in the preservation and promotion of local and regional history in the categories of Publication and Service.

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