It was a beautiful day with the sunshine beaming down for Art In The Park at the Ancient Forest with Mary Gouchie's presence felt.
It’s impossible to describe Mary Gouchie’s incredible life in a few simple words, but those who knew Mary are quick to describe her smile, her sweetness, and her ability to connect with everyone she met.
She was Lheidli T’enneh’s eldest elder and one of the last fluent speakers of Lheidli T'enneh dialect of the Carrier Language.
Mary was known for her tireless work to preserve, protect, document, and promote the use of the Dakelh.
Today (Aug. 31), she was celebrated by a special plaque being unveiled at the archway of the picnic shelter (Gathering Place) to commemorate her contributions to the community.
"Our beautiful Elder of Lheidli T’enneh Nation, Mary Gouchie, is here today in spirit," Lheidli T'enneh Elder Darlene McIntosh said during the opening ceremonies. "We honour her for her undying commitment to the language of our ancestors. Mary was one of the last few fluid speakers of the Lheidli T’enneh dialect. Her kind and gentle ways impacted so many people: her family, the Lheidli T’enneh Nation, the community of Prince George and further. Mary was a knowledge holder, the wisdom keeper, giving herself so others would benefit."
There were also several dignitaries in attendance including Mayor of Prince George Lyn Hall, MP for Prince George-
"I was lucky enough to know Mary," Bond said during the ceremonies. "She was an incredible person and she did love the color purple but she was just an element, she brought an element of class and she was gentle and kind and so today is a very special day on a number of fronts, but when I thought about why it was important to connect Mary to this place, Mary was passionate about protecting language and she was responsible during the games [Canada Winter Games 2015 in Prince George], translating street signs, making sure that we protected a vulnerable language and she was passionate about that protection."
Mary Gouchie's grandaughter, Kym Gouchie, recalled several memories of her grandmother.
"I'm at a loss for words," she told the crowd. "I never thought in a million years that I would be standing here dedicating a very very important part of this Ancient Forest to my grandmother. Today we are going to unveil a plaque that was installed by Nowell (Senior, Former President of the Caledonia Ramblers).
The festival was dedicated to Gouchie and will be celebrating her achievements outside near the entryway of the Ancient Forest trails.
Those in attendance then saw local artists and musicians scattered throughout the forest performing and displaying their creations along the breathtaking trails.
- With files from Hanna Petersen