by Laura Walz email@example.com A Tla’Amin (Sliammon) First Nation elder is marking two significant milestones in her life today, September 21.
Elsie Paul is celebrating both her 80th birthday and the recent receipt of her birth certificate. “I’m excited to have a birth certificate after all these years,” Paul said. “I’m official,” she laughed.
Paul was born at home in Tla’Amin. Her grandparents had told her she was born on October 8, 1932. But after she had her last child, a son who is now 45, a nurse in the hospital told her Indian Affairs had her birthday as September 21, 1931. “From then on, I tried to get a birth certificate,” she said. “I tried a few times and just gave up on it.”
She tried again some time ago, however she was notified that Vital Statistics couldn’t find her. “I dug up some old, old documents that I had and sent those off,” she said. “They finally got it straightened out. A lady from vital stats phoned me one day and, after a few questions, she said, ‘okay, that’s what we’re looking for.’ I was so thrilled.”
Paul received her birth certificate in the mail just last week. “There have been many others who have had problems in obtaining proof of age,” she said. “In my working years, I tried to help people get a birth certificate, a proof of age, and it’s been really difficult for a lot of people.”
In 2010, Paul received an honorary doctor of letters from Vancouver Island University (VIU). Paul’s traditional Coast Salish name, Qazustala’s, means a welcoming person with a wealth of knowledge, someone who shares her culture, said Shawn Atleo, VIU Chancellor and National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations at the ceremony. “This is a remarkably suitable name, given that Elsie is one of the few remaining elders of Tla’Amin First Nation who is fluent in the Tla’Amin language and who has dedicated her life to creating healthy communities through learning.”
Paul has spent her life in service to others in a variety of forms of justice reform and social activism, drawing on traditional teachings. She has set an example in living her own life and has shared these practices through her many professional activities.
Paul’s life story includes attendance at residential school for two years. She was raised by her grandparents who proactively avoided having her attend residential school if at all possible. She has enjoyed working with people and being involved in her own community of Tla’Amin as well as the City of Powell River and the Vancouver Island community.
Paul has served as elder-in-residence at VIU’s Powell River campus for the past three years.