’Namgis chief Bill Cranmer. (Supplied photo)

’Namgis chief Bill Cranmer. (Supplied photo)

‘Namgis First Nation’s Bill Cranmer recognized with British Columbia Reconciliation Award

North Island elder one of 6 recipients of the honour in 2022

‘Namgis First Nation chief Bill Cranmer has been recognized with a British Columbia Reconciliation Award.

The award recognizes individuals, groups and organizations who have demonstrated exceptional leadership, integrity, respect and commitment to furthering reconciliation or inspired others to continue reconciliation efforts.

Cranmer was one of six recipients that were acknowledged in 2022.

“Reconciliation builds relationships and bridges the gap between two worlds through the efforts of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. By recognizing the truths of past wrongs and showcasing examples of how to make things right, others will be inspired to follow,” says BC Achievement Foundation board member Cloy-e-iis, Judith Sayers. “In its second year, the British Columbia Reconciliation Award continues to celebrate innovative and empowering ways to embark on this journey, designed and decided by Indigenous peoples, allowing them to thrive while making the world a better place. On behalf of BC Achievement, we are privileged to announce and honour the 2022 awardees. Congratulations to all the recipients and thank you for your efforts on our collective reconciliation journey.”

“For the second year of the British Columbia Reconciliation Award, I have been heartened by the continued focus on advancing reconciliation in BC,” says the Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia. “The 2022 recipients represent elders and youth, partnership and leadership. They showcase creative ways of educating young generations and new Canadians on the history and culture of Indigenous people, ensuring all are included on the journey of reconciliation. It has been my deep honour to champion the award, and I couldn’t be prouder to share the accomplishments of the 2022 recipients with British Columbians.”

The Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, has chosen Reconciliation as one of the key priorities of her mandate. This commitment includes participation in promotion of public awareness of the ongoing journey of reconciliation, and developing a legacy through the creation of this award.

Cranmner has been a strong and vital voice for the sustainment of the ‘Namgis First Nation language and culture. He led the repatriation of cultural objects including masks, bentwood boxes, and regalia that were confiscated under duress in 1921 after a Kwakwaka’wakw potlatch held in the village of ‘Mimkwamlis on Village Island, BC. The confiscation was sanctioned through Canada’s “Anti Potlatch Law” which existed between 1884-1951. Twenty community members were sent to be imprisoned at the other end of the province because of practicing their traditions.

A fluent speaker of Kwak’wala, Cranmer worked tirelessly to retrieve the appropriated pieces and raise awareness about the need to preserve and maintain language, history, and culture. The repatriation of some of the 750 confiscated items has had a significant positive impact on the community. He has travelled to Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and elsewhere to share the story, and present on behalf of the Assembly of First Nations and the First Peoples’ Cultural Foundation.

As Chief Councillor of the ‘Namgis First Nation, Cranmer negotiated economic treaties to develop businesses for his nation to prosper. He has spent numerous terms on the Executive Board of the Native Brotherhood of BC and has been an Elder/Cornerpost with the First Nations Health Authority, giving historical and cultural input into meetings. His efforts in the preservation of First Nations’ traditions have gone a very long way towards Reconciliation. In a speech at the 1980 opening of the U’mista Cultural Centre, which houses much of the reclaimed potlatch items, he said, “It’s important to know your past if you are going to fight for your future.”

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