A BRITISH COLUMBIAN EDUCATIONAL SAFARI
Taking ABE classes to rural communities is very much a concern of Cariboo College. The following article is the story of delivery of BLADE to the remote Nemaiah Valley of Chilcotin, B.C.
In early August of 1976 the telex spat out requests for ABE in central B.C., Chase, Merritt, Kamloops, Williams Lake, Anaham, Nemaiah and so on. NEMAIAH, where in blazes is that place? I'd bounced around the college district a good while, but never had I heard of Nemaiah. Frantic searches of my cache of road maps coughed up names of Nemia, Nehmiah, Nemaiah and Nemiah, and definitely no consensus of opinion as to exactly where the road was that got us into this place. Upon expressing interest to my vice-principal about going in there, he sarcastically remarked I had no idea where I was going. Little did I realize how prophetic his words would turn out to be.
My first trip into Nemaiah was in early September. The college coordinator from Williams Lake, had arranged for a native outreach worker to travel with us and guide us to this remote spot whose very name now excited us. So early one morning, Frank Supernault, Gerry McKee and myself headed out the Bella Coola highway west from Williams Lake. At Hanceville (Lee's Corner) we turned south and on past the large Chilko Ranch, the Stone Indian Reserve, and eventually descended (some 140 miles later) into the beautiful Nemaiah Valley. The area is awe-inspiring. The valley is characterized by high snow-covered mountains similar in stature to Roger's lass, many trees, the large Konni lake at one end, and Chilko lake crossing the top of the valley at the other end, and large lush green fields of hay in between.
Civilization has not reached this remote valley of 160 inhabitants of which only a mere handful are white. There is no power, no telephone, and essentially no roads. Speed limits in the valley are 20 m.p.h, dictated by conditions rather than radar. Roads lack some bridges and small river crossings are by simply getting wet. Apparently winter travel is easier - one simply drives down the lake. The homes are essentially all log cabins, although there are some newer D.I.A. models around that have been made from plywood. The school has
also moved into the valley in the last 3 or 4 years and brought with it a conglomeration of 9 trailers to make up the school and living facilities for the staff. The school offers probably the only indoor plumbing in the valley and is the owner of one of two radio-telephones in the valley. Incidentally, the school radio-phone seldom works, and when it does, is hampered by low cloud cover that blocks transmission out of the valley. The other radio is twenty miles up the road.
Our time in the valley was spent trying to locate the people for the course that was to start in a month's time. No-one was around." School attendance was less than 50% of what was expected. The families were still in the bush haying, fishing and drying their meat and so on. Anyway, we came away with something like thirty-two names. Over twenty of these had less than grade 4, and eleven of those had never the graced the inside of a school. The request for a BTSD II-III seemed completely unrealistic. Our team completed the procedures for initiating a BLADE program.
We spent many hours just visiting. It seemed important at the time to get to know as many of the people as we could. Our guide was tremendously valuable in showing us around a wilderness area devoid of road signs. Being native, he broke the ice for us on many occasions when I'm sure our efforts would have ended in failure. Satisfied, at having accomplished something, we returned to Williams Lake some twenty-four hours later. Our first trip had given us some idea of what we faced. Now came the task of changing the minds of the Department of Education and CMP.
Our second trip in was at the beginning of October. We had set up appointments a couple of weeks in advance so that we could get the people together for documentation by GMP. I must stress at this time we had had very little in the way of cooperation from the local CMP office. They decided that the dates set up for them weren't suitable and arrived on their own schedule. Naturally, there were no students around. A number of reasons accounted for this. The people were still haying, some men were guiding hunters and others were back in the hills working on cattle round-up. Still others were attending a funeral and the celebrations that go with this 'Were taking a few days from their busy schedules. This trip was almost a dead loss. Not much was accomplished to aid the course. Also, we did a good deal of damage to the college vehicle.
My third trip in, in early November, was to take the CMP people in to document the students. This was accomplished without a hitch (just one flat tire). We have a BLADE program scheduled for November 29 (1976) with a class of students. We have an instructor who WANTS to live out there, and thank-you very much, I'm as proud as punch to get this class off the ground.
Some interesting notes on Nemaha:
(Author not identified. Article taken from: ABEL Communicator, 2nd ed., Dec. 1976.)