Elders Gathering feeds partnership

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LS M. Sevigny of Base Foods and Cpl Raymond Sam of 39 Service Battalion work the grill in one of the Mobile Kitchen Trailers.

They cooked enough food to feed an army and now members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) are receiving a heartfelt salute from the 2015 B.C. Elders Gathering.

“The support of the Canadian Forces at our event was both inspiring and encouraging,” said Mavis Underwood of the Elders Gathering Planning Committee and elder with the Tsawout Nation.

“It built bridges between our communities and truly was a very powerful happening for everyone in our community from our youth to our elders.”

Military cooks from CFB Esquimalt’s Base Foods joined forces with 39 Service Battalion and First Nations cooks to provide food for 5,000 people at the 39th Annual   B.C. Elders Gathering at the Panorama Recreation Centre in North Saanich earlier this month.

The CAF supplied three kitchen trailers staffed with 10 Cooks, to supplement the Tsawout Kitchen staff and volunteers at the annual event.

Working side by side, military and First Nations cooks prepared western European cuisine such as soup, sandwiches and chicken, as well as traditional aboriginal dishes including smoked salmon and bannock.

The gathering gave Esquimlt’s cooks the rare opportunity to train for cooking in Field Kitchens in a remote environment.

“Their main area of expertise is in static kitchens or in galleys on ships,” said Sgt Barbara Lane of Base Foods.

“Although they didn’t get the full field experience because they had access to electricity and water, they did get a better understanding of both what will happen when they work remotely and the actual physical work environment in a field kitchen.”

Sgt Moogly Tetrault-Hamel helped facilitate the military involvement in this year’s gathering and began planning for it in November 2014.

During the event, he was the overall Operation Coordinator.

A quartermaster by trade, Sgt Tertrault-Hamel is also the Regional Military Co-Chair of the Defence Aboriginal Advisory Group of British Columbia.

He credited Underwood with initiating the process of including the CAF at the event for the first time.

“DND always seeks opportunities to build a strong relationship with Aboriginal groups in Canada,” said Sgt Tetrault-Hamel.

“Mavis was the point of contact and essential to this working. She came to us, gave us the pitch about what the Elders Gathering was all about, and initiated the whole process.”

Underwood’s motivation for inviting the military to join in this year’s event was her family history.

Her father, George Underwood, was a member of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry during the Second World War.

He died in 2014 and it made sense for her to pick up the military torch for her dad, she said.

“That’s part of the reason why, when I heard the Elders Gathering was coming to Victoria this year, I understood the significance and said, ‘We need this partnership with the military.’”

The B.C. Elders Gathering helps First Nations elders throughout the province build stronger ties with each other, socialize and celebrate past accomplishments.

This year’s event also provided a two-way street for learning between the CAF and First Nations as First Nations cooks got to see how the military cooks operate while military members learned the art of cooking traditional First Nations food.


Peter Mallett
Staff writer

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  1. Frank Eustache says:

    Cpl. Ray Sam is my grandson. I’m a former member of RCEME base maintenance section. 1968 to 1972. I’m very proud of Ray for all the work he did for the elders. He got to visit with Elders from Esket(Williams Lake). They were all proud of him. Ray started with the Armed Forces because of my being in the Forces. He wanted to follow in my footsteps. His Mom, his Dad and I are all very happy for the work he did. Thank you.

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