Carolina Tatoosh of Port Alberni has been awarded a 2020 BC Community Achievement Award for the work she does with Hupacasath First Nation youth and elders. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

QUINN’S QUIPS: Port Alberni woman honoured for her love of helping

Carolina Tatoosh earns provincial honours for her work with Nuu-chah-nulth elders, youth

Nuu-chah-nulth youth already know this, but Carolina Tatoosh is a pretty cool woman. Now, the entire province knows about it.

Tatoosh has been honoured with a BC Achievement Community Award as a person in British Columbia who goes above and beyond in helping her community.

For more than 20 years, Tatoosh has served the Hupacasath First Nation, Nuu-chah-nulth and Alberni Valley communities as a youth and elder worker. Tatoosh was born in Bolivia and came to Canada in 1977. She went to school in Surrey, and remembers walking past a youth centre when she was in grade school and thinking, “this must be the best job ever.”

She joined the Hupacasath when she married Tom Tatoosh, and became steeped in her new Nation’s culture by asking a lot of questions. She started 20 years ago helping elders in their homes. In 2000, she learned there was a job opening for a youth and community worker, applied for it and was hired. At first, she worked out of the old Hupacasath band hall on River Road, in a building that could barely fit 50 people, with a budget of $300.

Over the years, Tatoosh has increased her programming for youth and elders depending on what funding has been available. “The last 10 years is where I’ve seen the biggest growth in my budget,” she says. She now has thousands of dollars for her programming, and still engages in fundraising as a learning activity for her youth.

“I try to instill the habits they will take into their own lives,” she says, and helping others is one of those habits. She mixes skill building with fun and both demands and dishes respect.

Whatever she is doing is working. “I’m on my third generation of kids,” she says. “I’ve got kids that I had when they were 10 that now have kids who have kids.”

Her own children have had the opportunity to grow with her while participating in her programs as well as behind the scenes.

Tatoosh thanks her daughter Lindsey and husband Tom “for always being there to help.”

Tatoosh is one of 25 recipients in 2020. Another winner with ties to the Alberni Valley is Dr. Andrea Walsh from North Saanich. A visual anthropologist at the University of Victoria, Walsh has worked to identify and, in many cases, return children’s art to survivors of Indian Residential and Day Schools in Canada. Walsh has worked closely with survivors and their families—including those from local First Nations—and museums in B.C. to curate exhibitions of the children’s artwork as part of her work as Honourary Witness to Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Walsh was responsible for repatriating artwork from the Alberni Indian Residential School (AIRS) in a ceremony at Alberni Athletic Hall in March 2013. She was also guest curator for We Are All One, an exhibit of the artwork at the Alberni Valley Museum in February 2015.

READ: Residential school childhood artwork repatriated by adult survivors

Walsh shared in early May that grant funding has been approved to create two graphic novels about the artwork from AIRS and Inkameep Day School from the Okanagan. Both will be written in English as well as Nuu-chah-nulth and Nsyilxcen dialects, respectively.

“I’m very honoured to continue the work with survivors, their families and communities,” Walsh posted on social media. “I’m simply thrilled to know that the stories and art and survivors’ memories and knowledge will be shared in this way.”

A ceremony originally planned for Victoria in April had to be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic and COVID-19 restrictions. Recipients will receive a certificate and medallion designed by BC artist Robert Davidson at a future date.

The BC Achievement Foundation is an independent foundation established in 2003 whose mission is to honour excellence and inspire achievement. The BC Achievement Community Award was the first initiative of the foundation, followed by the Carter Wosk Award in Applied Art and Design, BC’s National Award in Canadian Non-Fiction (2005-2018), the Fulmer Award in First Nations Art and the Indigenous Business Award.

Susan Quinn is the Alberni Valley News editor.

Alberni-Clayoquot Regional DistrictAwardsFirst Nations women

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