Order of Canada recipient leads interesting life

December 3, 2016

Not everyone liked what I wrote about them.

What does puzzle me, though, is sometimes I would walk away from an interview thinking I had heard someone say such interesting things which made me strive to do my absolute best when I wrote the story.

If someone then phoned the managing editor or publisher to complain about my piece, it not only bewildered me bit hurt me, too.

The following article is a case in point:

Gulf Islands Driftwood — Pender Islands Edition

Order of Canada recipient leads interesting life

by Tanya Lester

Alfred Scow, a retired provincial court judge, is receiving the Order of Canada because of the many hours he has contributed to community service. This includes his key involvement in the establishment of the First Nations House of Learning at the University of British Columbia (UBC).

If the Order of Canada was awarded to people who have led extremely interesting lives, Scow could have been given it for that reason alone.

Born in 1927, Scow is of the Kwicksutaineuk First Nations people. His early life was spent moving between Gilford Island, Alert Bay and other areas in the vicinity where his father fished and trapped commercially. Due to his family’s nomadic lifestyle, Scow got only two months a year of formal schooling up until the time he was nine years old.

It was then that his parents, Chief William and Alice Scow, decided to send the young Alfred, who was their oldest child, and his younger sister (eventually there were 16 children) to St. Michael’s Indian Residential School. “Both my parents believed education was needed to survive in the new world,” said Scow.

Scow recalled his arrival at the Alert Bay Anglican school in August. For the first month, the children were taken out on picnics almost every day. “I thought I had died and went to heaven.”

September rolled around and 200 students flocked into the school. There were line-ups for showers, meals and at bedtime. The morning was spent on studies with the afternoon allotted to doing chores on the school farm. It was a very regimented atmosphere with everyone dressed in uniform.

Scow remembers being sent out to pick up leaves in the fall. When a teacher saw he was not doing the work, he hit Scow across the calves with a key chain. “I put two and two together,” said Scow, who never again refrained from doing the task at hand.

He said the children endured corporal pinishment which could be classified as physical and psychological abuse by today’s standards. He pointed out, however, that people who went through the British boarding school system of the day also endured similar treatment. He is not aware of sexual abuse occurring although he remembers a couple of boys were “favoured” by one of the male teachers.

The students were forbidden to speak in their native languages. The movies they watched once a month had a cowboys-and-Indians theme with the cowboys always winning.

The school principal was named Frank Earl Enfield, who later became the BC Indian Affairs commissioner. This man recognized Scow’s intelligence and had him skipped to a higher grade on several occasions.

Among other benefits for Scow was the opportunity to befriend young native people from all over the Vancouver Island area. He also got the opportunity to participate in track and field sports and soccer. He continued to do well in sports throughout high school and university.

For high school, Scow was sent to the Alert Bay public school while continuing to board at the residential school. Then, a Captain Baker came to St, Michael’s one day in search of a deckhand.

Enfield told Scow that he could take the job as long as he continued his education through correspondence courses. Scow said Baker taught him to be an excellent navigator but his education suffered.

Baker realized this and arranged for Scow’s parents to allow him to be assigned to foster parents from September to June each year.From grade 10 to 12, he stayed with a different foster family each year and attended a different Vancouver high school.

After high school Scow entered UBC where a lot of his friends were also enrolled. It took him many years of part-time studies to complete a degree in law because he constantly had to take time out to make money to pay his education. From the age of 15 he owned a gillnet boat which he used to earn a living.

Scow’s determination kept him going. It was something his father, who was the Native Brotherhood of BC president for nine years after serving as vice-president for as long a period instilled into him….

To be continued in next post

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