Monday, Nov. 11, was a special day for Simpcw First Nation, not only did they hold their first Remembrance Day ceremony in Chu Chua to commemorate Simpcw World War II veterans, as well as those who served in peacetime, but they also unveiled the impressive results of their Simpcw Cenotaph Project.
The Cenotaph Project has been created by hard work and effort put in by the Simpcw Elders Council, under the blessings of the Band’s Chief and Council, and with project proposal assistance from Diana Hallam of Urban Systems.
Obtaining a grant of $50,000 from Veterans Affairs, which is to be matched by the same commitment from the Band was the first step; then the planning, design, and eventually the creation of marble slabs that will comprise the core of the cenotaph.
The marble slab was ordered from Classic Shuswap Monuments in Tappen, B.C., with three of the four slabs recently arriving in Chu Chua. The fourth slab is awaiting a few more names to be inscribed on it before it will be shipped to the Band.
The white marble slabs are most impressive, especially due to the unique petroglyph drawings that have been transposed onto them from photographs taken of ancient drawings carved into rocks throughout the Simpcw traditional territory, covering an area from Vinsulla to Blue River.
Once all the pieces are completed, a 10 – 14 foot circular cast in concrete pad will be poured in a designated cenotaph area, just north of the community hall in Chu Chua. Over the erected cenotaph will be two timber arches of approximately 12 feet in height that will be built by Tyler Salle. On top of the arches will be a cast or carved eagle in flying position, and around the circle will be seating areas as well as natural plantings.
The Elders Council say they plan to have the cenotaph up by next spring, and they are all eagerly looking forward to seeing it in place.
During the Remembrance Day ceremony held on Monday, Chief Rita Matthew thanked the Elders group who worked so hard to get the cenotaph project underway, “It was time for this to happen,” said the Chief.
She commented that while all the names of Simpcw veterans were being read, she was thinking about “What that would look like if they were all standing here in front of us today?”.
“They were all strong independent people,” said Matthew, “They gained skills while they were away, and then they came back and raised families, and they were the backbones of the community. They were strong community members. One of my best memories of them was seeing them all sitting around a fire and laughing. And that’s what they have given to us.”
Matthews went on to talk about the hardships that were felt by those who were left behind while members of the Band went off to fight in the War. “Women left behind did the haying, and men who couldn’t go were called on to do more in the community, having a roll to play as well. It was tough times for awhile, but after they came back they made us stronger for what we are today.
“I think we are fortunate that we live in a peaceful country. We have homes to live in and we are fortunate people.”
The Chief once again congratulated the people working on the Simpcw Cenotaph Project. “I want to speak of the immense gratitude we have for the Elder people who are working on this. Congratulations to the group for bringing the recognition for the families that have never been forgotten, and the gratitude to those men who are the backbone of our community.”