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Mary Thomas recordings help keep the Secwepemc culture alive

Activist and First Nations Elder Mary Thomas (1918 - 2007)
Image Credit: Facebook/BC Jobs Plan

SALMON ARM - In a generation where knowledge about historic languages and cultures can fade into the unknown the recordings of a local First Nations advocate will help keep the Secwepemc language, culture and history alive.

Lectures from Mary Thomas, an advocate for First Nations culture, language and history, have been preserved for Voice of the Shuswap community radio.

Louis Thomas is pleased to know his mother’s speeches have been saved for future generations to keep her message alive.

“She was an icon and she wanted to spread her message to other people,” Louis Thomas says. “Sharing. That’s what our people are all about. She shared her knowledge with everybody. This was the way of our people from time immemorial."

During her life, Mary worked tirelessly to influence people to keep the language and culture of Secwepemc people alive. She received several accolades for her activism and was the first Aboriginal person to receive the Indigenous Conservationist of the Year award from the Seacology Foundation. Mary also received honorary degrees from the University of Victoria and the University of North Carolina.

A local First Nations woman through a B.C. funded Job Creation Partnership archived the audio of Mary’s lectures by transferring it to a digital format. Hundreds of hours worth of lectures were originally on cassette tapes and are now better preserved for historical reference. During the conversion process, some First Nations song recordings from the 1920s were discovered.

The lectures will now be shared on a one-hour weekly show dedicated to her legacy on Voice of the Shuswap community radio.

“This is something new for a whole new generation of First Nations people and the rest of us,” radio station manager Jeanette Clement says.

Starting on Feb. 22, The Legacy of Mary Thomas will be featured on the Salmon Arm radio station CKVS-FM 93.7 on Monday’s at 8 p.m. The show will be repeated Thursday at 9 a.m. and Saturday’s at 2 p.m.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Glynn Brothen at or call 250-319-7494. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

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