Mary's gift

Our words and our music are two of the foundations of the human experience.

Without them, we have no past and we have no future.

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Without them, we are the same as our mammalian cousins, trapped in the moment and the everyday struggle to survive. There is no faith, no hope, no awareness of of who we were and who we might be to guide us in the everlasting present.

Perhaps no one in Prince George understood that better, or ever will understand that better, than Mary Gouchie, who passed last Thursday at the age of 97.

Her tireless efforts to save the Lheidli dialect of the Dakelh (Carrier) language weren't an intellectual or philosophical exercise in historical preservation. Saving her language and her songs was central to her role as devoted mother, to care for her children, her grandchildren, her community and her people.

What greater gift is there from a mother than her protection and her guidance as all her children discover their unique path, anchored by a communal belonging around heritage and culture?

Gouchie loomed so large in Lheidli life that she transcended the title of elder. As her obituary states, she was the matriarch, the central mothering figure to a massive immediate and extended family. Those without a blood relationship to her - even those who never had the pleasure of her presence - have benefited from her mothering wisdom and will continue to do so long into the future.

It was so fitting that she, along with Olympic gold medallist Cariona Le May Doan, carried the torch into Canada Games Plaza to open the 2015 Canada Winter Games in Prince George. Side by side, two inspiring women showcased the very best of ourselves to the nation and the world. Le May Doan represented the fire of individual athletic excellence while Gouchie represented the warming heat of family, of community, of teamwork, of bringing people together to be greater than the sum of their parts.

And what a family.

Gouchie has left behind children and grandchildren who are community leaders in their own right as gifted musicians and devoted teachers, spreading the songs and the words far and wide. Her body and soul may now be gone but her heart still beats like a drum through her remarkable descendants, her blood a song that strengthens them as they continue her fierce mission.

That gift to her family translates into a gift for the community at large. This city and region are now blessed with a richer appreciation of its unique identity, thanks to Gouchie.

Her life serves as an example of resilience, perseverance, wisdom and devotion. In other words, she embodied all of the essential characteristics of motherhood and of leadership.

That speaks volumes in any language.

We just have to listen.

-- Editor-in-chief Neil Godbout

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