Steven Point ended his five-year posting as British Columbia’s 28th lieutenant-governor on a high note Thursday, boldly and unabashedly belting out the song he says he wrote for the people of the province one night while sitting alone in Government House, his official residence.
Mr. Point raised his hands and sang as aboriginal dancers, a choir and the HMCS Naden Band accompanied the outgoing vice-regal in song.
“This song I wrote in the middle of the night one night,” he said of the piece of music he titled British Columbia. “You’re at Government House, by yourself, with security and there are 102 rooms up there. There’s not much to do. But I heard this song and I wrote it down.”
Mr. Point, a former Skowkale First Nation chief, provincial court judge and treaty negotiator, was the first aboriginal person appointed to represent the Queen in B.C. Known to park his 1977 GMC pickup truck at Government House and strum country songs in its stately rooms, Mr. Point embodied down-home charm but was dignified, honest and wise in the way he approached people.
Premier Christy Clark said she will cherish her meetings with Mr. Point, especially the wisdom he provided during their chats.
“I know personally, your honour, I will miss our private talks by the fireside,” she said. “I will very much miss your sage advice, your thoughtful advice, your willingness to open your heart.”
Ms. Clark presented Mr. Point with a handmade guitar, which he immediately took from its case.
Mr. Point returned the warm praise, saying Ms. Clark has taken on a leadership role during difficult times. “You speak with a freshness and an intelligence and energy that has been a welcome breeze in these hallways,” he said. “We need more women in leadership roles, God knows.”
Mr. Point did more than write songs and entertain guests at Government House. He also carved a dug-out cedar canoe in one the residence’s garages and erected a totem in its garden.
Mr. Point said he initially didn’t want the position of lieutenant-governor. He had grown weary of travel and wanted to spend more time with his family in the Fraser Valley, he said.
“One day the prime minister phoned me and asked me if I would do this,” Mr. Point said in an interview. “I thought, ‘No, I want to go home.’ But my wife [Gwendolyn] is the one who suggested to me this might be really good for our people to have someone in this position.”
Laughing, Mr. Point said she was right, and he’s seen the enthusiasm at his literacy camps on tiny Kuper Island near Victoria and at this summer’s totem raising ceremony in the Government House gardens.
“The native people, they’re so proud to see our own person to be recognized like this,” he said. “They all feel they’ve been uplifted. It’s been great. It was a great thing that’s happened.”
Mr. Point said his legacy will go beyond the totem, canoe and the song he wrote, though he said he hopes the song will be an anthem children and adults will be proud to sing. He said the canoe on display at the B.C. legislature and the totem at Government House reflect the values he wanted to bring to the post.
“The canoe project was about reconciliation and how do we get people to better understand each other and begin talking and to break down barriers,” he said.
“I thought giving the canoe was a good thing to do. The pole was also in the same theme. We really have to turn the page on history and begin to think a lot about how we’re going to work together in the future,” said Mr. Point.
The pole is a replica of the totem well-known West Coast carver Mungo Martin designed and carved decades ago and presented to the British Navy by Canada’s Navy in 1953.
Mr. Point said he spent hours in the Government House garage, pondering with Victoria carver Tony Hunt the meaning of why Canada would choose a native artifact to present to the British navy as a symbol of Canadian friendship and culture.
<MW,98>“To me, it represented this gift across the ocean that was coming from Canada carved by a First Nations artist,” he said. “This notion of reaching across the ocean and bringing our culture over there was something that was similar to what I was trying to do here to bridge the two cultures.”<MW>
Chief Sophie Pierre, who replaced Mr. Point as B.C.’s chief treaty commissioner, said Mr. Point brought a soft wisdom to the job. She said his impact was monumental in the aboriginal community, but his legacy spreads beyond.
“It was just an amazing appointment for all British Columbians,” she said. “He brought a different kind of pizzazz to that position.”
Mr. Point will be replaced by Judith Guichon, a rancher from B.C.’s Interior, an official ceremony on Friday.
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