More than 30 enthusiastic sojourners enjoyed the cultural landscape of the beautiful traditional Stó:lō territory with Naxaxalhts'i, aka Albert (Sonny) McHalsie on Saturday, May 9th, 2015. This was an initiative organized by Diocese of New Westminster Indigenous Justice Ministry Coordinator, Brander McDonald who also has a similar ministerial role with the Mennonite Church of BC.
Naxaxalhts'i is currently the Cultural Advisor and Stó:lō Historian for the Stó:lō Research and Resource Management Centre. Naxaxalhts’i has studied Halq’eméylem place names for 21 years.
The folks on the tour enjoyed the mountains and waterways of the Upper Fraser Valley on this tour which departed from Chilliwack and made its way through the scenic Fraser Canyon above historic Yale B.C. The participants listened and learned about the unique relationship between the Stó:lō, “the River People”, their land and their environment.
Sophie Eigbike, a participant on the tour had this to say, "It was a wonderful day with lots to digest. Sonny is a wonderful storyteller and is an amazing historian. I think I might have to go on a couple of tours to fully digest all the facts. Next time, I would be writing all the words down, because it would be a way for me to learn the language a little and also to work on remembering the Sto:lo name.”
A feature of the tour was Naxaxalhts'i (Sonny) sharing of the original names for certain well-known locations and landmarks in the Fraser Canyon: Lhilheqey for Mt. Cheam; Ts’qó:ls for Hope, Xwoxwelá:lhp for Yale, and Xéylxelamós for Lady Franklin Rock, and many other Halq’eméylem Place Names.