Elders – Yîlîstis Group

The Yîlîstis Group is the most recent of a series of Elders’ groups that have been active in our community, both in advising and supporting community services and in preserving and passing on cultural knowledge and traditions.

In the Fall of 1977, the staff of the Heiltsuk Cultural Education Centre began calling the Elders to weekly meetings to record information about Heiltsuk place names, historic sites, and resource areas. As it was not feasible to take our elders out on boats, we used large scale maps, and usually travelled around one map to each meeting. Clarence Martin pointed to different places along the way and asked for names, and Evelyn Windsor wrote them down. Land claims issues and the exact extent of Heiltsuk territories were also discussed at these meetings.

At the meeting of November 30, 1977, Clarence Martin asked if the elders would like to choose a name for themselves so that they could be known as something else besides “the elders group.” A number of names were proposed and discussed. Beatrice Brown offered the use of her name, Yîlîstis, and this was the name decided upon unanimously.

Yîlîstis is a fitting desription of the activities of this group of elders and the staff of the Cultural Centre: completing round trips by map with Heiltsuk territories; carrying on the larger task of documenting and supporting the rebirth and continued celebration of our culture; and not stopping or delaying our work until the task is completed.

Yîl (the same day; without delay or detour) îst ([in a] circle) is ([in] world, [in] open space)

Our greatest cultural treasure is our Elders. Their special knowledge an understandings challenge us all to learn, remember, and preserve this heritage. The Elders, and especially the active members of the Yîlîstis Group, have been the main source of inspiration and challenge for those working in the Cultural Centre and on behalf of our present and future generations.