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Blog: Wednesday, January 25th, 2017
In Memory of Dr. Ray Silver
This post comes from Darlene MacDonald, District Principal of Aborginal Education.
Sunrise March 1, 1929 / Sunset December 16, 2016
Dr. Ray Silver gave us so much. He opened the way for reconciliation with his support of education and the Abbotsford School District. I first met Ray when he invited the School District into the community longhouse at Sumas First Nation in 2010. Being invited into the longhouse was significant and an example of his openness, leadership and generosity. Since then, children and families from the School District have had the honour of attending events such as the Halq’emeylem Language contest and school honouring ceremonies and teachings, along with an annual cultural awareness day for support staff. At the honouring ceremony, I was called to witness. I heard Ray share his personal story and was deeply moved as he shared the heartache of his experiences at residential school and the death of his brother in that facility.
Ray’s traditional name, Xéy’teleq, means warrior. Ray advocated for his people and the land and shared many important messages with all of us. He exemplified perseverance and hard work. He was open and generous and displayed a willingness to share and teach others the important cultural teachings of his people. He openly praised and held in high regard teachers and educators and he was a wonderful role model in our community. And if you consider his early experiences with education, you can only respect and admire him all the more. He reminded us and taught us to respect the water and the land and to take care of this place. He called the rivers the “blood vessels of Mother Earth.”
He loved to hear about the successes of his children, grandchildren and many nephews and nieces - as they lovingly referred to him as “Uncle Ray”. He taught respect for Mother Earth, the water and land and he continuously shared his love of gardening. I was so proud to learn that in the past five years, Sumas First Nation students have had a 100% graduation rate and I know this success is deeply connected to the legacy of Dr. Ray Silver, Xéy’teleq.
I visited Ray in his final days. As he struggled to speak, I thanked him for what I had witnessed at the honouring ceremony in the longhouse, the experiences at the Enhancement Agreement signing, and for his ongoing support of students, schools and educators. I shared with him the impact he had on me as an educator and leader and for his generous gifts to all of us. He said quietly over and over “Thank you, thank you.”
Ray was a generous man who cared for his people - even in his final days with us on earth. He expressed a spirit of constant gratitude, which is something we can all learn from, admire and hold close to our hearts. Kw’as ho:y, thank you, our respected Elder.
District Principal, Mamele’awt Community Aboriginal Centre