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Jeanne Clarke awards handed out

The Prince George Public Library welcomed a crowd of 95 attendees at the Bob Harkins Branch on Sunday afternoon to celebrate the finalists and winners of the 2023 Jeanne Clarke Local History Awards.

The awards were established by the Library Board in 1985, in memory of former library Board Chair, Jeanne Clarke. Awards were presented in two categories: the Service Award was bestowed to elder Edie Frederick and Jennifer Annaïs Pighin, and Liz Bryan was honoured with the Publication Award for her book Adventure Roads of BC’s Northwest Heartland.

The objective of the Jeanne Clarke Local History Award is to increase interest in local history, to publicize the library’s role in preserving and promoting local history, and to recognize individuals and groups for their efforts in local history. Although the primary goal is to recognize the history of Prince George and the surrounding area, local history is broadly defined to include all of Northern B.C. so historical work with a regional focus is eligible for recognition.

Seven publications were shortlisted and showcased for this year’s Publication Award:

  • Adventure Roads of BC’s Northwest Heartland by Liz Bryan
  • Alone in the Great Unknown: One Woman’s Remarkable Adventures in the Northwest Wilderness by Caroll Simpson
  • Castle to Cabins: Random Memories of My Life by Olga (Horn) Boudreau
  • Ceepee and the Fish Camp by Huble Homestead/Giscome Portage Heritage Society, with Watercolour Illustrations by Cliff Mann, First Nation Designs by Jennifer Annïs Pighin, and Dakelh Translation by Edith Frederick
  • Crossing the Divide: Discovering a Wilderness Ethic in Canada’s Northern Rockies by Caroll Simpson
  • I Hear The Mountain Calling by Clarence Boudreau with Tracey Brown
  • Local schooling: a brief history of the first six decades of formal education in the Fraser Fort George Region by Tiiu Noukas

Although Liz Bryan wasn’t able to attend the celebration in person, her video acceptance speech shared her thanks and gratitude for the honour of winning the award.

“I have been exploring B.C. for many years — mostly along the backroads— and finding, not only delight in the amazing scenery but also a way back into time,” she said. “The history of B.C. unfolds along every First Nations trail and in their villages; then there are fur trading posts, gold rush roads and camps, old churches, pioneer ranchers and settlements, mines and railways, and forgotten graveyards. There is history and wonder everywhere. I hope that my books and photographs encourage people stuck in the big cities and wired into the technology of our times, to seek adventures for themselves. To put their footprints where others have long trod. Again, my thanks, and keep travelling.”

The 2023 Service Award was bestowed to two Prince George locals,Edie Frederick and Jennifer Annaïs Pighin for their individual, and sometimes combined, contributions to preserving and promoting local history.

Many Indigenous languages across Canada have been all but destroyed by a history of colonization and cultural assimilation. Many of these languages were often taught and shared orally through fluent speakers, typically elders. It is extremely unfortunate that when these elders pass, whole dictionaries worth of knowledge risk disappearing as well. As such, they are instrumental in the recovery and documentation of written and spoken Indigenous languages, like Carrier.

Today the Carrier language is experiencing a resurgence thanks to those same elders who have made major contributions to online dictionaries, multi-media resources, and ongoing language programs at the local schools, college, and university located on the traditional Territory of Lheidli T’enneh. Frederick and Pighin are two local language and cultural champions making positive and important contributions to the preservation and promotion of local history within our region.

Frederick is a Lheidli T’enneh Elder dedicated to, and passionate about, preserving local Lheidli T’enneh history and the Dakelh language. As the Nusdeh Yoh Learning Commons website confirms, “under the guidance of Lheidli Elder Edie Frederick, Nusdeh Yoh Elementary School has been working to ensure that the local Dakelh language is learned and remembered by the next generation. It is our hope that through our children, this part of our heritage will remain on this territory for generations to come.”

Over the years Edie has created many language videos and is an active member of the ‘Atsiyan Ink’E ‘Atsoo Elders Society and the Dakelh Language Lessons Facebook group. Edie is a keeper of traditional stories from this region. Edie was instrumental to the creation of the Lheidli Dakelh Dictionary and has done significant translation work, including for the recently published children’s book Ceepee and the Fish Camp, for which Pighin also provided the First Nation artistic book designs.

Pighin grew up on the banks of the Nechako River at Lhezbawnichek/Miworth, and is a visual artist and educator living in Prince George. She has been an active member of the local arts and culture scene for decades. Jennifer’s passion for language and cultural preservation have an impact on our entire community through her role as the vice principal of Language and Culture at School District 57 Indigenous Education Department, the board chair of the Omineca Arts Centre, and as one of the founding members, and directors, of the Northern Indigenous Artist Council.

Jennifer is a teacher and learner of the Lheidli T’enneh Dakelh dialect and encourages the students and staff to learn conversational Dakelh by hosting weekly virtual language lessons with the support of Lheidli Elders. She is a traditional knowledge keeper, an educator and a cultural ambassador. She has led the Khast’an Drummers while sharing the stories behind the songs, which are often connected to the land and the history of Lheidli T’enneh.

 “Collectively and independently they are both deserving of the Jeanne Clarke Service Award for their collaborative approaches and dedication to preserving and promoting local history and culture” said PGPL Board Chair Anna Duff.

Established in 1985, the Service Award recognizes outstanding contributions by an individual or group in the area of local history. In 1993, the PGPL Board added a Publication Award so authors could be recognized for producing an important new work of local history. Non-fiction, biographies, historical fiction or any publication that improves the appreciation and understanding of local history is eligible for the Publication Award. Works must be published within the past two years.

Jeanne Clarke was a founding member of the Prince George Public Library’s Local History Committee, and played a key role in establishing the Prince George Public Library’s local history collection.

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