Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry looks on as Premier John Horgan discusses reopening the province’s economy in phases in response to the COVID-19 pandemic during a press conference in the rotunda at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Wednesday May 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Dr. Bonnie Henry given new name in B.C. First Nation ceremony: ‘one who is calm among us’

The provincial health officer was honoured in a May 22 ceremony at elementary school in Hazelton

Dr. Bonnie Henry has been given a Gitxsan name.

In a ceremony conducted at Majagaleehl Gali Aks Elementary School (MGA) in Hazelton and attended by Dr. Henry via Zoom May 22, the province’s top doctor was named “Gyatsit sa ap dii’m” meaning “one who is calm among us.”

“It’s a pretty apt description,” said Stikine MLA Doug Donaldson, who also attended via Zoom and described the ceremony.

“They had a number of teachers and hereditary chiefs in the gymnasium at MGA, and they were all self-distancing, and like is done in the feast hall, her name was called out three times to verify it by different people chosen to call her name.

“She seemed very, very touched. She spoke and thanked the Gitxsan, she was emotional for sure.”

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A number of other people also spoke, Donaldson said.

“It was really nice, it was an uplifting ceremony.”

School District 82 acting school superintendent Janet Meyer also spoke, thanking Henry for her work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meyer said she appreciated Henry’s calm approach, noting that she has used some of Henry’s own words in her communications with school district staffers and families of students.

Donaldson, who has lived all his life in the Hazeltons, said while it is not uncommon for Gitxsan houses to adopt people based on family connections or skill sets needed within the house groups, this was a bigger occasion.

“I’d say it happens infrequently enough that it’s still special,” he explained. “In this case, it was clear it was an all clans ceremony and just in recognition, people thanked her so much for her work and obviously her (Gitxsan) name certainly reflects that.”

Black Press Media is also reaching out to Dr. Henry for a comment.

Henry came to daily prominence in B.C. after the coronavirus pandemic reached the province and has been lauded by other governments and the international media for her methodical and reassuring approach to the crisis.

She is largely credited with the success B.C. has had in flattening the curve of virus transmission and keeping the province’s number of infections and death rate relatively low.

Henry has been provincial health officer (PHO) since 2018. Prior to that she served as deputy PHO, executive director of the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, coordinated Toronto’s response to SARS in 2003 and worked on the front lines of Uganda’s Ebola outbreak in 2001.

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