First Nations honour key 2010 Olympic figures
Jeff Lee, Vancouver Sun
Published: Thursday, February 28, 2008
VANCOUVER - Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee, is Raven because he is wise and watches from on high.
Jack Poole, the chairman of the Vancouver Organizing Committee is a revered provider and leader, so he is called Pool-Warrior.
Rene Fasel's love of winter sports as the head of the Vancouver Coordination Commission means he is, literally, called Winter.
And no one would be surprised to learn that John Furlong, who has shepherded the 2010 Olympic project for five long years as its chief executive officer, is Beaver.
These are the names elders of four host First Nations bestowed upon the four men in a somber and closed-door ceremony Wednesday night to honor their work in bringing the 2010 Winter Olympics to their traditional territories.
The naming ceremony was chosen in part because of the remarkable effect the Olympics has had on the four nations, said Tewannee Joseph, the executive director of the Four Host First Nations Secretariat.
"These are four people who have been embracing of our culture and we wanted to recognize the work that they do not just for the four host first nations, but overall," he said.
"We also wanted to build more understanding of our culture, that there is more to it than the history books or the drumming and singing."
He said the Olympics had brought the four nations together to work as one group, something that had never been done before, and it has had a significant impact on the welfare of native peoples.
During the ceremony, from which the media was excluded, the four men were dressed in special button blankets and given headbands. They were escorted into the ceremony by members of the Tseil-Waututh, Musqueam, Lil'Wat and Squamish nations who had come to witness the event.
Part of the ceremony required the men to each select a mentor or someone they looked up to who would keep them safe. Each one was required to give his headband and another blanket to his choice.
Rogge chose his wife Anne. Poole named his long-time executive assistant, Deborah Prior. Furlong named his eldest son John, and Fasel chose Premier Gordon Campbell. - go gordo go???
Fasel said later he was struck deeply by the ceremony, noting that it is something foreign to Europeans like himself.
"I am not only pleased, but deeply honored. The integrity of the First Nations is wonderful to behold. I think respect is one of the very important things in our lives. I show respect to them. And they have shown respect too."
Furlong said he did not expect such an honor, and was left nearly speechless.
"It was a truly amazing thing that they did, and I will never forget it," he said.
For Prior, who has long acted as Poole's second brain by keeping him on track, being named a mentor to Poole left her near tears. "How do you like that," she said. "After all this. I am so deeply honored by Jack for this."
"I am very grateful to the Four Host First Nations for bestowing this great honour upon me," said Rogge.
Joseph said Rogge was named Spa:l' or Raven because "he is someone who is wise, clever and carries messages."
To the Lil'wat, Fasel is Sútik, or Winter, which recognizes Fasel's commitment to winter sports.
Poole, who is also part Metis, was adopted by the Squamish nation, which Joseph said literally translated his name in recognition for a lifetime of contributions and leadership. The actual name is Eskwukweláýakalh Stamsh.
And the Musqueam, who have watched Furlong's efforts to keep the Games on track, remaned him Sq?l'e??ten or "one who emulates a beaver". Joseph said the name was chosen because Furlong had demonstrated industriousness and working for the greater good of community.
The ceremony, which took place at the Westin Bayshore Hotel, was attended by about 50 dignitaries, including civic and provincial politicians and IOC members. To mark the event, each person was given a special button attached to a card naming the four men.