Artist Butch Dick smiles as he takes his turn singing in a drumming circle to start a blessing ceremony for the Ogden Point Breakwater Land and Sea mural (in background). The mural art was designed by Dick and fellow local First Nations artist Darlene Gait.

Songhees elder honoured with lifetime achievement award

Clarence (Butch) Dick is a well-known figure in the Songhees nation, and now he is being recognized for his work in the community.

A talented artist and educator, Songhees First Nation elder Clarence (Butch) Dick’s biggest passion is mentoring children.

He is now receiving the Leadership Victoria lifetime achievement award for his work in the community.

Dick, 69, worked as A First Nation art and culture teacher in school district 61 for 25 years before retiring nine years ago.

“I enjoyed the daily challenge,” said Dick.

Sherri Bell, superintendent of School District 61, remembers Dick when she first arrived in the district as the principal of James Bay Community School 18 years ago.

“He worked with the students in my school, so I got to see him as a teacher,” said Bell. “He had such a calming effect on students. Children are at the centre of everything he does.”

After retiring from teaching, Dick became the education liaison for the Songhees First Nation, working as the bridge between the school district and the schools and families and students on the Songhees reserve.

Dick said he always tries to encourage youth.

“Lately it’s been trying to have youth recognize accomplishment and build on accomplishment, self-esteem, identity and confidence,” he said.

Dick said he gets his desire to help children from his mother.

“My father passed away before I was born, so I never really had a father figure,” he said. “My mom was really tough. She brought us up well.”

In all the work he has done with youth and the community, Dick never does it for the recognition or awards. He said the biggest reward for him is having past students remember him and tell him what an impact he had on them.

Besides mentoring youth, Dick also played a key role in the design of the new Songhees Wellness Centre. He spent three years carving totem poles and traditional Coast Salish house posts for the Wellness Centre. He credits the finished building as being one of his biggest accomplishments, but he is quick to not take all the credit.

“I always emphasize that I designed it, but a team carved it.”

The Victoria Leadership awards ceremony takes place Feb 19 from 4:30 to 7 p.m. at the Crystal Garden in Victoria. The event will honour 19 nominees in eight categories, including Dick for his lifetime achievement award.

For more information, go online to leadershipvictoria.ca.

 

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