T’Sou-ke Hereditary Chief Andrew Lazzar and his daughters Mary and Susan in 1928.

A T’Sou-ke Chief and his princess

Elida Peers writes about the history of the Sooke region

Woven cedar bark, wool, feathers and blankets were part of the ceremonial dance costuming of T’Sou-ke Hereditary Chief Andrew Lazzar and his daughters Mary and Susan. The year was 1928 and the occasion a “spirit dance” celebration at the Esquimalt Big House.

Though today she would be unknown to many readers, the woman in the centre, Susan Lazzar was an incredibly interesting, generous-spirited and talented woman who made many contributions to our knowledge of our history.

Born in 1910 to Annie (Jones), wife of Chief Andrew and sister of Queesto of the Pacheedaht People, Susan grew up on Sooke Reserve No 1.  When she was nine she was sent to Kuper Island Residential School, learning to read and write.  Back at home, she learned traditional Salish skills, in preparing seafood and learning to weave cedarbark and sweetgrass baskets at her mother’s side. “My mother, she’d say ‘Watch me, I don’t have to tell you, just watch me.’ She wouldn’t talk about it – she’d just show us how it’s done.”

Married young, to George Cooper of Esquimalt, she was the mother of Jimmie Cooper, who grew up to serve several terms as the elected chief of the T’Sou-ke Band. Susan sometimes lived in Esquimalt, sometimes in her Sooke homeland, and also in Washington State where she raised several additional children. Throughout her life, she continued to practice the traditional Salish skills she took such pride in sharing.

She never failed to give thanks to the tree when she asked the cedar to give up some of its bark for her use and she addressed the sun each morning as she set about her day. During the 1980s, living permanently in Sooke, “Grandma Sue” became a fixture at the Sooke Region Museum every summer Sunday as she sat out on the lawn showing visitors the processes of weaving with cedar bark. We, along with the visitors, thought of her as a kindly, gentle treasure.

We were particularly excited the day that renowned US anthropologist and ethnologist Wayne Suttles arrived at the museum to study the tule reed mat she had made. Grandma Sue had chosen the finest tule reeds from either side of the Strait of Juan de Fuca for her woven masterpiece.

Local artist Kathy Johannesson partnered with her to write her memoirs, “That Was our Way of Life” a little booklet available at the museum. Among Susan’s sisters, besides Mary, who married Baptiste Paul, there was Nancy, who married Dick Pappenburger of Saltspring Island and her eldest sister, Ida Lazzar who became Mrs. Gustave Planes. Ida raised a large family in Sooke who all became well-known, particularly in the fishing community. It is one of her grandsons, Gordon, who serves as T’Sou-ke Chief Gordon Planes today.

Elida Peers,

Historian

Sooke Region Museum

Just Posted

Sooke’s Old-Fashioned Country Picnic set for Saturday

The free event combines music, kids activities, food and fun

Cycslists were all smiles during ninth Tour de Victoria

More than 2,100 cyclists participated

‘I’m just absolutely disgusted’: Husband furious after Const. Beckett’s killer gets day parole

Kenneth Fenton was sentenced to prison after he fatally struck Const. Sarah Beckett’s cruiser

Police investigating incident in Saanich neighbourhood

Neighbours tell Black Press Media that a body has been found, but police remain tight-lipped.

Colwood man takes on Ride to Conquer Cancer for 11th year in a row

Team Finn has raised almost $3 million for BC Cancer Foundation

VIDEO: Langley Ribfest met with protesters

Groups that oppose the event for various reasons plan to be on site each of the three days.

Sooke’s Old-Fashioned Country Picnic set for Saturday

The free event combines music, kids activities, food and fun

Canadians killed in Afghanistan honoured during emotional dedication ceremony

One-hundred-fifty-eight Canadian soldiers died during the mission

It’s snow joke: Up to 30 cm of snow expected to fall in northeastern B.C.

Alaska Highway, Fort Nelson to be hit with August snowstorm, according to Environment Canada

Sea-to-Sky Gondola in B.C. likely out of commission until 2020

Sea to Sky Gondola carries between 1,500 and 3,000 people every day during the summer season

Helicopter-riding dog Mr. Bentley now featured on cans of new B.C.-made beer

Partial proceeds from every pack go to Children’s Wish

PHOTOS: Weapons seized at Portland right-wing rally, counterprotests

Not all who gathered Saturday were with right-wing groups or antifa

Ferries employees participating in Denman Island cleanup for plastic-shedding ferry

The cleanup comes a few weeks after one organized by residents of the Island

Discussion on grief and loss between Stephen Colbert, Anderson Cooper goes viral

The exchange includes emotional question from Cooper, and outlook on grief as a child

Most Read