It was a recent two-day celebration at the Quesnel Friendship Centre that opened its doors five decades ago by the Quesnel Tillicum Society (QTS).
Music, dancing, and food were shared on Sunday, Nov. 6, and Monday, Nov. 7, along with memories and laughs.
A ribbon to the Quesnel Friendship Centre currently located at 319 North Fraser Drive, striving to provide culturally relevant programs and services for Indigenous people living in Quesnel and foster enhanced spiritual growth among the Indigenous and non-Indigenous people who use its services and facilities, was cut in December 1974. The society’s old building was to be converted into a thrift shop.
A snapshot of that day and photographs from over the years were placed on tables to go through.
“Looking at the pictures, we’ve always had events, and we’ve always used the hall,” said QTS executive Tony Goulet. “We’re here all together, we’re open for everybody, and I think that was our motto 50 years ago, and I still believe that’s our motto now — that we’re here to help individuals and people get over their hurdles, whatever that might be.”
Goulet described the two-celebration as fantastic, with some of their past executive directors participating along with current board members.
The Quesnel Friendship Centre used to provide a hostel with accommodation available for students in residence and Indigenous people released from hospital needing additional care and recovery.
On a laptop was an image of a housing design concept that Goulet said they would be incredibly proud to come to fruition.
“It’s been a dream for some time, so hopefully, that will be a reality within the next ten years at least.”
Stopping by the celebration on Sunday was Nazko First Nation Chief Leah Stump, who was joined by a group of community members who drummed and sang with her.
As the leader of an on-reserve community, Stump said organizations off-reserve sometimes get forgotten regarding engagement and participation.
“In the future, I would love to be more part of the Friendship Centre and the other organizations in town because I think that’s really important because a lot of our community members live off-reserve,” Stump said, adding only around 150 of their 400 members live on-reserve.
“It’s so important to start getting things going for the people who don’t have those resources, for the people who get turned away at the doors of the Indian Act, so I’m so thankful for organizations like this.”
Taking to the open mic was Perry Alexander, who called himself a lucky man as he noted his partner Sheila Gilpin was working in the kitchen making bannock for everyone. They had moved to Quesnel 11 years ago, bringing their culture with them, including hoop dancing that he has shared at the Quesnel Friendship Centre.
Cakes were cut on both days.
Before 3 p.m. on Monday, a draw was held for three gift baskets. Everyone was wished to have a safe drive home, with Nazko First Nation elder Doreen Patrick providing a closing prayer.
Goulet told the Observer the programs and services the Quesnel Friendship Centre has been able to provide over its 50 years of operation to Indigenous and non-Indigenous people have been incredible.
“And it’s still happening past the celebration,” he said.
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