Remembering a man who had woven stories into students’ memories and hearts
Shelley Ferguson // Contributor
Valeriya Kim // Staff Illustrator
One of Capilano University’s first Elders-in-Residence was Slá’hólt, Hereditary Chief of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, Elder Ernest “Ernie” I. George. Sadly, Elder Ernie’s courageous fight with cancer ended on Nov. 11, 2020 at the age of 80. He is survived by his lovely wife Deanna “Dee” George of 62 years, 4 children, 11 grandchildren, and 15 great-grandchildren.
There are many articles online about Elder Ernie’s life already. How he loved golf and worked in the golf industry for 40 years; how he was a champion canoer; how much he loved and cherished his wife, family, and friends. I encourage you to look them up, read them and learn new stories that you may not have heard before.
However, I want to talk about what Elder Ernie means to the students. He was loved by all who knew him. Elder Ernie spent time in the Kéxwusm-áyakn Student Center and helped foster a sense of home to the space where Indigenous students gathered. The Elders-in-Residence Program brings together students that are starting on a new educational life journey with those who have a lifetime of experience and knowledge. Eleven years ago, this program brought Elder Ernie into our lives at CapU and he helped build a community that was meaningful to everyone. He shared his knowledge, his joy, and his heart with everyone every term.
I have had many talks with students over the last three years about Elder Ernie and what comes up the most is a feeling of home. Elder Ernie had an incredibly gentle and warm nature that many students gravitated towards. He was always ready with a smile and with kind words of encouragement for students. “He represented my grandpa’s generation,” said current CapU student Crystal Henderson. “He very much reminded me of my grandpa.” I would agree that he was like a grandpa to many of us.
Former Interdisciplinary Studies student Tyrone Joe-Mayes felt that Elder Ernie “represented a real-life example of someone with experience of the impacts of Canadian imperialism for anyone who [was] interested in that kind of stuff.” Joe-Mayes recalled “boxing, canoe racing, drinking, hunting, and being a great-great grandfather” as some of his favorite topics of conversation with Elder Ernie.
Elder Ernie frequently interacted with not only students, but with CapU faculty and employees as well. “One of the many things Elder Ernie shared with us over the years, [was that] it is how we connect and interact with people that is the most important thing in this journey we are all on,” said David Kirk, Indigenous Faculty Advisor and Instructor. “This interaction and connection needs to be done in a mutual and respectful manner. I will treasure the many teachings he shared with not only me, but with students and colleagues.” Many other employees have also expressed feelings of respect and affection for our beloved Elder Ernie.
Personally, Elder Ernie was someone who instantly made me feel happier and safer by just being in the same room as him. He was someone that I could go to that was not technically my family, not a professor, nor a CapU employee. He was someone who was there because he wanted to share his knowledge and wisdom with the younger generations. On any given day, we would share mindless chit-chat, jokes, meals, play games, or attend ceremonies together. Having his love and support during difficult times was healing and a blessing that I will always cherish. Elder Ernie was an incredibly gentle man who was many things to many students and will be greatly missed by the CapU community.
I will leave some chocolate out for you tonight.
‘Your Water Girl’