Many who live in Sooke today may not know that our community hosting 1994 XV Commonwealth Games athletes earned us a specially produced replica Queen’s Baton.
The Queen’s Baton was part of the opening ceremony in Victoria, where Tsartlip elder Samuel Sam performed the blessing ceremony, witnessed by then-premier Mike Harcourt.
The unique Sterling silver baton’s design was by Charles Elliott – Coast Salish; Art Thompson – Nuu-chah-nulth; and Richard Hunt – Kwakwaka’wakw. Particularly significant to us is that Charles Elliott is connected to the T’Sou-ke Nation, and his carvings also grace our municipal offices.
The baton was crafted in the shape of a “soul catcher,” the artists highlighting the legendary connection between the supernatural and natural worlds.
The XV Commonwealth Games was held in Victoria from Aug. 18 to 28, 1994. Sooke regional director of the day, Bob Clark, and I, representing Sooke Festival Society, had the good fortune to become friends with George Heller, president and CEO of the Games. We invited the 63 participating nations to attend a traditional loggers sports show and salmon barbecue at Sooke Community Flats.
It was indeed an event that made Sooke proud, showcasing our community spirit in every way – the T’Sou-ke Nation provided the salmon, our many generous-spirited residents, businesses, and organizations met the international athletes at the Athletes’ Village, hosting each of them for the day and driving them in a cavalcade to Sooke. What a moment of pride, as the athletes marched colourfully onto the Flats, led by the MP for our riding, Hon. David Anderson!
We were told that the athletes who attended felt our welcoming, a neighbourly spirited community event was a highlight of the Games – what an opportunity for them to share in the enjoyment of the loggers’ sports show and the salmon barbecued in true First Nations style.
The Commonwealth Games Society acknowledged a small selection of groups who had undertaken extraordinary efforts in welcoming the athletes and awarded each with a replica of the beautifully crafted Queen’s Baton.
When the CRD/Sooke Firehall building was built in 1996, a unique showcase was established for the Queen’s Baton at the front administration entrance. Imagine the shock felt by the community when it was discovered one morning that the building had been broken into, and our replica Queen’s Baton had been stolen!
Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.