On Dec. 1, Simpcw First Nation residents of Chu Chua welcomed Guatemalan visitors Glenda Mo de Suram, and Sebastian Suram Cal; administrator and tradesman indigenous members of the Mission group ‘Hope of the Pokomchi’.
Bill and Linda Brierly, residents of Clearwater and founders of the Mission Group, had organized the recent visit with help from Keith McNeil, editor of the Clearwater Times.
Almost exactly five years ago, the Brierlys, who spend much of their lives in Guatemala, had made a trip to North America with Glenda when they met with Simpcw people to form a mutually beneficial contact with them. The purpose of this recent visit was to share their cultures which have similarities as well as differences, and to continue to strengthen the relationship between the Simpcw residents of this area and Pokomchi of Guatemala.
The Brierlys interest and wish to work with and for the Pokomchi began about 10 years ago when they worked with two Christian organizations, and then in 2004 formed their own group ‘Hope of the Pokomchi’
The Pokomchi are one of 23 distinctive indigenous groups of Mayan decent in Guatemala. They are also one of the smallest and least developed in the country, and are surrounded by the more dominant Latinos and assertive K’ickchi.
“The purpose of our organization is to assist the Pokomchi in their move toward their God given purpose in life,” said Linda.
The day of visiting began with a meeting between Chief and Council and the visitors in the community hall. They realized that both groups had similar issues that included indigenous rights and broken agreements by governments.
Linda noted that during many years of war and persecution the Pokomchi people suffered terrible losses. There were 400 villages that had been completely wiped out and thousands of people were killed and thousands others fled into neighboring Mexico. Those that fled into the bush were ruthlessly hunted down. In 1993 a peace accord was signed, but many of the agreements have since been disregarded.
Charlie Fortier, Simpcw Cultural and Language Coordinator, went to much time and effort to present a comprehensive overview of Chu Chua’s Simpcw people’s life; their culture their accomplishments and future hopes and plans, by means of a PowerPoint presentation to the visitors.
“It was informative and of huge value to us, the depth of coverage and the time and effort spent on the PowerPoint presentation was actually humbling,” said Linda.
Glenda and Linda stated that during a discussion following the presentation some thoughts were expressed to have an exchange between Simpcw people and Pokomchi which may be possible at a future date. The groups also discussed the possibility of a more formal relationship that could be a good idea for both groups.
Following a delicious lunch Band Councillor Fred Fortier took the visitors on a tour of the Dunn Lake Fish Hatchery, and two winter homes in the area.
Glenda and Sebastian commented that the visit to the Hatchery was most interesting to them. They were fascinated by the way the fish were caught and tagged and the whole process of operating the facility.
The tour took a little longer than planned and therefore the final presentations could not take place. Glenda and Sebastian had intended to share aspects of their culture either verbally or interactively, with photos that depicted a day in the life of an average mountain-dwelling Pokomchi family. But since time was running out and the visitors had other commitments, the Simpcw drumming and singing group made the final presentation.
When it was time to leave, both visitors and hosts exchanged gifts. The Guatemalans thanked their hosts for their hospitality, and their generous gift of time and informative presentations.
In parting Lynda expressed the importance of the relationships that have been formed, saying, “People won’t care until they know that you care.”