Hearts that Revitalize – People of Campbell River Part 2
In celebration of Giving Tuesday Canada, Destination Campbell River partnered with Erin Wallis – local photographer, story-teller and all-around good “Riverite” herself – to highlight some of Campbell River’s unsung heroes. Here is installment 2 of 5, to make your heart smile and think about the world in a different light.
Our next local big heart is June U’magalis Johnson. I honestly don’t even really know where to start with the giving and sharing she does. She invited me to her home, and as I walked into her space, I knew I was in the presence of someone who lived the spirit of giving.
On her counter was a bag of elk meat she was delivering to a young girl she had met who was experiencing some hard times and didn’t have the funds to buy meat to feed her children.
On the floor piled up under the bag of meat to donate, were baskets, gift wrap and supplies, all going to her 100 Indigenous Aunties movement; a group of local “aunties” who get together and give baskets to those in need over the holidays. 100 Indigenous Aunties comprises of June and a group of 10 other local women. Led by June, these women compile baskets overflowing with items. Last year they gathered to fill 5 baskets – and likely the same this year – for local indigenous families in need in the community. The movement is an incredible one, which was started on the island by a woman named Marcia Dawson who approached June to start a small group in Campbell River, in the spirit of “taking care of each other and helping indigenous people in poverty.” June says, “we have to take care of them.”
Beside her chair sits a notebook for her Culture Group which she founded and heads up, on her walls are photos of foster children, and even a stray cat she rescued (just three days prior to our meeting) sits in comfort nearby. June Johnson is a treasure. There are so many amazing things about June, but one of the things that inspires me the most is her passion for culture. On top of being a celebrated traditional language teacher within the school district, six years ago June felt a need to share traditional ways and culture with those whose families had it stolen from them so many years ago.
June started the “Ligwiltach Elders and Youth Culture Group” welcoming all to come and learn the culture. It is an inclusive group and you don’t need to be from Campbell River to join in. She has between 30 and 40 people turn out of the sessions from ages 3-27, with elders participating as well. For the first 2 years she sponsored the entire program herself, trying to collect and create a treasure box for the kids she was working with, to learn with and use. With the help of a few others she has been able to receive bits and pieces of funding to purchase masks and regalia for the group to use. June only uses songs and dances from her own family’s treasure box, generously sharing what rich culture her family has with others. When she talks about the group, you feel the pride and joy in sharing her knowledge, passing it onto those that may not have access to their culture without her group. “It makes me feel proud because I’m doing something right, you can see these kids benefiting from it.” They meet every Sunday and Wednesday at the Quinsam Hall and sing and dance for 1-2 hours, although she said they always want to stay longer. “Sometimes I have to kick them out!” If you wish to get involved in the culture group or 100 Indigenous Aunties in any way contact June directly at [email protected]