Wendy Morton

Wendy Morton

Governor General honours Sooke resident

Wendy Morton awarded the Meritorious Service Medal

When Sooke resident Wendy Morton chooses to write a poem, she first starts by listening to a story.

A lifelong poet, Morton uses poetry as a vehicle of communication, even guidance. A few years ago, she made it her life’s passion to work with First Nations’ students, training them to be poets so they can retell and preserve their elders’ stories as poems.

Such things don’t go unnoticed, as Morton was among more than 70 Canadians honoured by Gov. Gen. David Johnston last week during a special ceremony in Edmonton.

She was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal, which celebrates Canadians who have performed “an exceptional deed or activity” that brings honour to Canada.

“It’s been an astounding part of my life,” Morton said.

Morton was surprised when she got a call from the Governor General’s office saying she was among those nominated. “I was shocked,” she said.

To date, she has helped create 15 mini-booklets (known as Elder Projects) that collect poems from First Nations students from across Canada. The students ask questions and then write poems for their elders, using “magnetic poetry and photographs.”

“The next day, the students come and they ask their list of questions to the elders and they turn that into the poem,” she said, adding that often, the kids will come up with the title for each elder project.

For Morton, the inspiration came in 2009, when she was commissioned by the Port Alberni Valley Museum to write poems for a book about local history pertaining to logging, road building and other regional activities. It was here when she noticed something was missing from the picture.

“I thought, aren’t we forgetting a population of people that were here thousands of years before us?” Morton said, adding that she decided to set up two chairs in the museum and put a call out for First Nations people to come down and share their stories.

“They became my teachers and changed me forever,” she said.

Creating a voice for the voiceless was just one of Morton’s ideas in the last decade. She was also a founder of Random Acts of Poetry Day, where poets take to the streets and to schools across Canada, sharing poems with anyone they come across.

It started with a simple phone call.

“One day I just decided to try something, so I picked up the phone and called Westjet. I said, ‘Why don’t you give me free flights in exchange for writing poems to passengers?’”

Despite the initial refusal and bemusement by Morton’s strange request, Westjet responded six months later with a yes, and for seven years it flew her back and forth across Canada whenever she needed to spread poetry.

“I’d write poems for the passengers, and that was the most amazing time,” she said.

Not much stands in the way of Morton’s goals. In 2004, she called Chrysler asking them if they could provide a car to help her spread poems on the ground, not just the air.

Chrysler responded with just that. A new PT Cruiser with the logo Chrysler Supports Literacy, giving Morton the wheels for the job all the way to the Maritimes.

Morton split her time writing poetry and her Elder Projects between her day job as an insurance investigator for ICBC for 30 years. She retired four years ago.

On her first arrival in Sooke more than 40 years ago, Morton had a printing press, which, in a way, was a continuation of her passion.

“I was always interested in poetry, and writing, and making big calendars with poems, and doing interesting things with poems,” she said.

She still keeps busy with the elder projects too. She’s about to come full circle by working on another elder project in Port Alberni, while keeping her eye sights on more to come.

“I’ll do it for as long as possibly can.”

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Carolyn Howe, a kindergarten teacher and vice president of the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association, says educators are feeling the strain of the COVID-19 pandemic and the influx of pressure that comes with it. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Stress leave, tears and insomnia: Greater Victoria teachers feel the strain of COVID-19

One year in, teachers still adjusting to mask and cleaning rules, pressure from families

Richard Pierce is the Goldstream Gazette’s 2021 Unsung Hero of the Year. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Navy veteran helping others cope with post-traumatic stress disorder

Rich Pearce is the West Shore 2021 Unsung Hero

The value of new construction in North Saanich topped $52.1 million in 2020 (Peninsula News Review)
Value of new construction in North Saanich topped $52.1 million in 2020

New figures also show 25 per cent increase in number of new secondary suites

Greg Chow is the 2021 Local Hero of the Year. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Fighting fire a family affair for Colwood Assistant Chief Greg Chow

With 38 years of service, Greg Chow is the 2021 Hero of the Year

(Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. residents can reserve provincial camp sites starting March 8

B.C. residents get priority access to camping reservations in province

Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.'s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
456 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., 2 deaths

Since January 2020, 78,278 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in B.C.

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Feb. 23

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media File Photo)
POLL: Are you struggling with Greater Victoria’s cost of housing?

While Victoria remains one of the most expensive cities in the country… Continue reading

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Vaccinating essential workers before seniors in B.C. could save lives: experts

A new study says the switch could also save up to $230 million in provincial health-care costs

The late Michael Gregory, 57, is accused of sexually exploiting six junior high students between 1999 and 2005. (Pixabay)
Former Alberta teacher accused of sexually assaulting students found dead in B.C.

Mounties say Michael Gregory’s death has been deemed ‘non-suspicious’

According to a new poll, a majority of Canadians want to see illicit drugs decriminalized. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Majority of Canadians think it’s high time to decriminalize illicit drugs: poll

More than two-times the B.C. residents know someone who died from an overdose compared to rest of Canada

Photograph By @KAYLAXANDERSON
VIDEO: Lynx grabs lunch in Kamloops

A lynx surprises a group of ducks and picks one off for lunch

Two women were arrested in Nanaimo for refusing to wear masks and causing disturbance on a BC Ferries vessel. (File photo)
B.C. ferry passengers arrested and fined for disturbance, refusing to wear masks

Police said woman threatened their pensions in Feb. 21 incident aboard Nanaimo-bound boat

When his owner had knee surgery, Kevin, 2, was able to continue to go for walks thanks to volunteers from Elder Dog Canada. (Contributed photo)
B.C. woman has nothing but praise for Elder Dog Canada

National organization has a fleet of volunteer walkers ready, but needs more clients to serve

Most Read