Usma connects children to war veteran relatives

Port Alberni, BC

A growing collection of photos featuring Nuu-chah-nulth war veterans was featured at a dinner hosted by Usma Nuu-chah-nulth Family and Child Services on Wednesday, Oct. 25. But the purpose of the event was not only to pay tribute to heroes, but also to demonstrate the family connections between Nuu-chah-nulth children and war veterans ahead of Remembrance Day.

According to Leisa Hassell, Usma connections worker, the event is the second one the agency has hosted.

“We honour the Nuu-chah-nulth war veterans by inviting their descendants who are connected to Usma to share a meal. We provide a presentation and acknowledge family members in the room,” she told Ha-Shilth-Sa.

The event started with a turkey dinner shared with invited families.

Following dinner, Hassell, standing in front of a photo display of Nuu-chah-nulth war veterans, told the families that the children there each have a connection to at least one of the war heroes. Most of them had served in World War II which lasted from 1939 to 1945.

The children, some of whom may be in care, cannot be named to protect their privacy. But when called upon, they stood proudly in front of the display, sometimes pointing to their hero. Each was given a printout of their family tree, showing how they are connected to war heroes in their families.

“The purpose of the event is to highlight the roots of children and youth in care by connecting them to their ancestors who served in the war, so they can take that information as a small piece of their identity and share it with family, friends, and peers in the days leading up to Remembrance Day,” said Hassell.

The event is a beautiful way to connect present youth with each other and to a piece of their history, she added.

Some of the children already knew about their war veteran ancestors. One was connected to five of them.

“You have ancestors from your past that did amazing things for Nuu-chah-nulth and for Canada,” Hassell told the children.

In addition to the family tree gifts, some of the children won beaded poppies that Usma staff made for the occasion.

According to Usma Director Kelly Edgar, Hassell, in her position as Usma connections worker, has taken on the project which was initiated by Dave Jacobson, Usma elders navigator, and is doing a phenomenal job.

“They are both such a huge asset to our team,” said Edgar.

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