Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Chilcotin Holidays

First Nations Elder Carl and the Berries


As Summer kicks into full swing at the ranch, the countryside comes alive and is absolutely bursting with wildlife and spectacular flora. The lush green Soopollalie bushes that are widespread throughout the territory which stretch far into the surrounding hills are now littered with bright red berries, heralding the beginning of my favourite season in the Chilcotin Mountains. The Soopolallie is a deciduous shrub which can be found throughout Canada and the western and northern United States. For centuries the berries have been used by First Nations people, not only as a food source, but also as a precious commodity which was used to trade with neighbouring communities.

Today at the Ranch, Carl has joined us to demonstrate how to harvest the berries following traditional practices and promises to create a special treat for us, as long as we can pick a bumper crop! Carl is a First Nations Elder who has lived and worked in the Williams Lake and Chilcotin Mountain areas for the past 86 years. The First Nations people believe the berries to be effective in treating flu and indigestion and can even be used as an alternate to soap. But on this scorching summers day, the only thing we will be using the little red berries for is to make some delicious “Indian Ice Cream”.

Waiting until the heat of the day has slowly subsided, we make our way to the fence line where there are dozens of bushes exploding with the vibrant red berries. Carl gently lays down an Indian blanket underneath the closest bush and explains how to most effectively removed the berries. Taking a small stick, Carl begins to hit the bush and each of the tiny red parcels falls delicately onto the awaiting blanket.

As Carl talks about the berries and the best way of handling them, he can't help himself from making a joke or two, his sense of humour certainly hasn't dulled one bit as he has aged. After a thorough washing, the berries are vigorously crushed to extract the juice, the remaining foam is then whipped to create a delicate pink froth. Add in a little bit of sugar and voila you have yourself the perfect summer treat!

It's inspiring to see Carl work with the young interns and guests at the ranch. Having a First Nations Elder pass down the knowledge and traditions of his people is immensely powerful to watch. The way that Carl approaches teaching is completely opposite to many teachers I've met before. He acts, not in an overly authoritarian way, he doesn't demand respect or assume that people will hang on his every word, although ironically that is exactly what happens when he speaks. There is no air of arrogance as he walks us through each of the steps, he is simply passing on things that he has learnt in the same ways he was taught by his elders. And it is this simple belief of talking and sharing that makes the whole so special to be a part of.

Chilcotin Holidays

About Chilcotin Holidays

We are a licensed guide outfitter and we conduct guided wilderness adventures throughout our 5,000 square km operating area. This guide area has been operational since 1880, making it the oldest in British Columbia. More about us HERE.

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