As I Remember It: Teachings (Ɂəms tɑɁɑw) from the Life of a Sliammon Elder


As I Remember It

Teachings (Ɂəms tɑɁɑw) from
the Life of a Sliammon Elder

Elsie Paul

with Davis McKenzie, Paige Raibmon & Harmony Johnson

It’s very important, our tɑʔɑw. ‘tɑʔɑw’ means ‘the teaching.’

An Invitation to Listen

Well, my name is Elsie Paul. My ancestral name is qɑʔɑχstɑles, a name that was handed down to me by my grandfather. That was the ancestral name of his mother … I grew up with my grandmother. As was the custom with our people, the grandmothers always helped with bringing children up. My grandmother had lost her youngest daughter with that residential school experience that we all have heard and know about. She was about ten when she was taken away to residential school, in Sechelt. And she got very ill, very sick there, within a few months. And by the time they let my grandparents know – they went to pick her up by canoe to Sechelt. They got her home, and she was so weak they had to pack her on and off the boat. And within a few days she had died. So her name was Elsie. So that’s where I got my name from. My grandmother, when I was born, wanted me to be named Elsie after the daughter that she lost. And it’s been good. For me it was very good. I thank her for that.

I think it happens in a lot of cases that we all say later on, “I should have listened. I should have paid attention to what my grandmother was saying or my grandfather was saying.” Because back – earlier days, there was no documenting the teachings. It was all oral teachin’s. You had to listen. So I think that’s where a lot of it is lost now, because people are not listening or taking time to listen, or to share the teachings. That is so important. ‘Cause it’s not documented. A lot of it is not documented. There is a little bit documented. But not enough. All the little details. So those things are really important to remember.

It’s very important, our tɑʔɑw. “tɑʔɑw” means “the teaching.” That we all carry the teaching, what we learned from our ancestors, the traditional teaching, the traditional values. “Ɂəms tɑɁɑw” – “our teaching,” that’s what that means.

It’s your job to look after yourself. To be well from inside and to teach that to your children, to teach that to your family, to set that example. When you listen to these stories, or the legends, or examples, and you apply that to your life. That’s why you’re the one that’s responsible for the direction your life takes you.

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