A cultural leader at the T’Sou-ke Nation, Linda Bristol, the eldest daughter of Norman (Dick) George and his wife Anastasia (Day), was engaged in carrying out the teachings of her parents’ when a sudden illness took her on Oct. 15.
Linda, truly a native of Sooke, made her home her entire life, living on T’Sou-ke Reserve No 1.
Her dad Dick, as we all called him, had grown up in Sooke as well, brought up in the well-established George family. When Linda was born her young parents were living with her grandparents, Danny and Julia George, at the far end of Lazzar Road.
It wasn’t long before Dick, an able fisherman, built his own house across the road, and that’s where Dick and Day raised their family of six youngsters. As the eldest, Linda led the way as the young George kids trekked off to Saseenos elementary school. As a youngster she enjoyed sitting at the knee of her grandmother Julia George and great-aunt Agnes George, listening to them speak in the Ditidaht language as they cured the salmon catch, smoking and drying it throughout each summer and fall.
Milne’s Landing High School followed, and Linda graduated as valedictorian in 1970. Marriage soon followed, to Manno Taylor of Alert Bay, and the birth of her daughter Monique.
For years, Linda commuted from her home to Victoria, where she was a B.C. government employee.
A sad time followed for the George family, as their fisherman dad, Dick died in a fishing accident in Alert Bay in 1980. Despite their loss, Linda assisted her mother as Day arranged a monumental tribute to husband Dick, with a potlatch at the Sooke Community Hall the following year. Four-hundred invited guests attended this traditional ceremony, the first potlatch in Sooke since the George family held a potlatch at their longhouse in 1921.
In time, Linda was in a new marriage, to Alvin Bristol, and happy to give birth to another daughter, Angie. Meanwhile, administrative programs had expanded at the T’Sou-ke Nation headquarters, and Linda was a participant.
In 2000, Linda ran successfully for the position of elected chief, following after Jim Cooper. One of Linda’s concerns was giving youngsters a good start, and one of her initiatives was the establishment of a primary school on reserve, which was named Sum-SHA-thut. In 2001, Linda officiated as chief at the opening ceremony for the Millennium Memorial Park on Maple Avenue.
Following her two-year term as chief, Linda focused on the culture of her heritage, arts development and a special interest in the traditional languages. She led the development of skills in Coast Salish knitting, weaving with both swamp grass and cedar, and drum-making as well.
She became the special projects and cultural advisor for the T’Sou-ke Nation, frequently obtaining arts grants from the First People’s Heritage, Language and Culture Council in Brentwood Bay.
Folks will remember the undertaking she organized, ISTA YA CONENET, or translated, “Let’s Go Run” which incorporated cultural stops all around the community. Other special focuses were her TAG Arts Program and the Youth Engagement program. Recently, Thursday evenings were meeting nights for the development of interest and skills in art.
Though keeping a hand in many community commitments, such as the Sooke Fall Fair, and becoming for a time a Lioness, Linda’s first passion was always her family; she was a devoted big sister to her siblings, a doting mother and grandmother.
Since her mother’s passing a decade ago, she had made her home in the house built by Dick George for his family back in the 1950s.
Though Linda’s health had not been robust recently, her sudden illness came as a shock.
Following a prayer service at the Lazzar building on Thursday evening, her service took place Friday at the same location, the original St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, where the building was filled well beyond overflowing.
The service was conducted by Father Dean, with much participation by family members, and partly in the family’s traditional language.
A particular feature of the ceremony was the eulogy presented in a warm and delightful manner by Ardyth Cooper, who spoke of the long-ago days and the fun they had in their community when she, Linda, their siblings and several cousins all grew up together.
After the service, interment followed at the George family cemetery on Edward Milne Road, and the T’Sou-ke nation hosted the mourners to a luncheon at the T’Sou-ke Nation Cultural Hall.
Linda leaves her daughters Monique and Angie, grandchildren Makayla, Alvin, Jeremy, Calvin, Caleb, and siblings Damien, Denise, Rick, Darlene, and Diane.
It is notable that when this woman of high principles closed off her email communications, she ended with this quotation “Make your journey a happy one because we are all here to walk each other home.”
Elida Peers is the historian of Sooke Region Museum.