Kyuquot family spreads A&D awareness as they dry their tears | Ha-Shilth-Sa Newspaper

Kyuquot family spreads A&D awareness as they dry their tears

Campbell River, BC

For Lil’Star Frank, daughter to Lillian Jack, when Trevor Jack passed away from an overdose nothing would stop her from being with her family to mourn the loss of their loved one. 

She found out about her brother’s passing when she had gotten a call at 4:00 a.m., from Anita Baker, Trevor Jack's mother, and who Frank considered another mother.

She drove from Ahousaht and waited in the Kennedy Hill construction so that she could be with her family in Victoria.

At the time she had been caring for 10 children.

Trevor Jack’s overdose in 2020 in Victoria was coupled with alcohol use, explained the family. 

“I feel like if alcohol wasn’t involved my brother would be here,” said Frank.

It was important for the family, at the Drying of the Tears Potlatch in Campbell River, to spread awareness about the use of drugs and alcohol.

“We want to share his love and his life and who he was because this was not Trevor,” she said. “He was not aware of what might be the outcome due to being under the influence of alcohol.”

“Our family has grieved lots because of alcohol and drugs,” she said. 

Frank said that the same week that her brother had passed, there were 11 other deaths on the South Island due to overdose while there were 36 in that same month.

“Trevor had his whole life ahead of him. He was so giving, so loving; his heart was so big,” said Frank. 

“Alcohol and drugs; that's what took him.”

 “I want everybody to be aware, and if you're struggling, reach out, and there's so much love and support,” said Frank. “But don't make that next choice of drugs and alcohol be it for you.”

Virtual Substance Use and Psychiatry Service which can be referred to individuals by First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) Virtual Doctor of the day, as well as other providers such as general and nurse practitioners, addiction workers, counselors, community health reps, among others. 

This online service provides addiction medicine, psychiatry support, and care coordination which include harm reduction support, relapse prevention planning, education about treatment centers, treatment care planning, diagnosis support, medication review, check-ins, and connections to community services such as counselling and therapy, among others.

Pamela Webster, a member of the Victoria Ahousaht Cultural Group, was the first to sit with the family after the loss in 2020, explained Guy Louie Junior (Kit-sah-in).

She would cook meals, make coffee, and handle business for the family such as informing other family members of Trevors passing, he continued.

“When families lose somebody they need to move as little as possible,” said Louie Junior. “And have other family members come in and help them so that they can focus on grieving.”

“We did the traditional part of handling the body and transporting it where it needed to go,” explained Louie Junior. “We also cleansed the house and the room [where] it happened.”

When the family asked the group for support with no hesitation they accepted, explained Louie Junior.

“We offered our knowledge… [on] the protocols of Potlatch [and] the processes,” said Louie Junior.

From the initial loss to the Drying of the Tears Potlatch, years later, the Victoria Ahousaht Cultural Group supported the family through their grief.

For Louie Junior, his role at the potlatch was emcee, following suit to similar roles that his father and grandfather had taken on in many potlatches before.

“My father’s always encouraging me to take on roles like that,” said Louie Junior. “There was a lot of pride and satisfaction in doing that.”

Louie Junior explained that memorial Potlatches are held depending on how one has passed away and how long they’ve lived.

“If it was a really tragic loss then they wait four years because in [those] four years, they need to heal and grieve,” said Louie Junior. “If we do it in a year they're still going to be in deep grief and it won’t finish its proper cycle.”

Prior to a memorial potlatch the family puts away the belongings of the loved one who has passed away, and at the ceremony things like pictures, songs and dances will come back out.

“It is up to the family to show the people that they're letting go now of grieving, and they're moving into celebrating the life that they have,” he said.

Along with providing support to families who have lost a loved one, the Victoria Ahousaht group is also called upon to perform songs and dances in Victoria, and at request throughout the Island. They also perform traditional cleansings at request from families, said Louie Junior. 

The group has been meeting on a weekly basis since 1996.

“We also rely on our local elders,” said Louie Junior. “We call elders from Ahousaht to guide us because we don't want to disrespect anybody or any traditions that we have.”

Lil’Star Frank also stressed the importance of frequent health checks. Her late-grandmother, Margaret Jack, who was also commemorated at the potlatch, had passed from cancer seven years prior.

She said that her late grandmother initially had breast cancer, overcame it, but then didn’t continue to get checked after.

As a foods teacher and coordinator, Frank has raised her kids to eat healthy, exercise, pursue their dreams, and strive for academic success.

She reflects that there weren't people to push her late grandmother to be healthy.

“We’re pushing that for the next generation; that they can do good no matter what,” said Frank reflecting on the success of her children and her foster children. “I want my kids to do good, I want them to be healthy.”

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