Elder Elmer George

Talking stick tradition comes to B.C. legislature [with video]

Totem symbolizes Coast Salish tradition of respectful listening, with little effect on ill-tempered debate in Victoria

Aboriginal elders brought a Coast Salish talking stick into the B.C. legislature this week, in a solemn ceremony that had little lasting effect on the heckling and interruptions of political debate in Victoria.

A replica of the totem pole on the grounds of Government House, the ornate stick represents the right to speak and receive a respectful hearing in aboriginal tradition. It was carved by Songhees artist James Delorme and presented to former Lieutenant Governor Steven Point in 2011 at a ceremony to mark the official naming of the Salish Sea.

Current Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon was on hand May 11 to present the stick to B.C. legislature Speaker Linda Reid, with a ceremonial prayer in the SENCOTEN language by elders Elmer George and Mary Anne Thomas.

“We present it to everybody this House but also to everybody that may come through these doors in the future,” said Chief Ron Sam of the Songhees Nation.

Reid said in a statement the talking stick will remain in the legislature until the next election in May 2017.

After the ceremony, Reid continued her struggle to maintain order in the rancourous debate of question period, which has declined more frequently into shouting matches as the next election approaches.