Elder profile: T’Sou-ke’s Germaine Sutherland
Naut’sa mawt Tribal Council is run with guidance from an Elders Council with representatives from its 11 member nations. The following article was published in the Salish Sea Sentinel
Celebrating 89 years young, T’Sou-ke Elder Germaine Sutherland danced to celebrate her recent birthday. I met with Germaine in her home along with her daughter Janet, and could see instantly that she lives life to the fullest. And as I looked around, I had to admire her beautiful home, which is filled with lovely furnishings and decorated with a designer’s eye.
Hielwet is Germaine’s Indian name, given to her by her mother Ida May Lazzar. Her father, Gustif Planes, met Ida on Denman Island where they fell in love. Germaine is one of 10 children. Growing up in T’Sou-ke, she took her brief elementary school education and started her working career as a server, working in high-end establishments including the Banff Springs Hotel, Union Club, Princess Mary Restaurant and the Empress. While she was working in Victoria, Germaine met Lawrence Alexander Sutherland, a merchant marine in the Navy. The couple married in 1949, having nine children together: Lawrence, Robert, Janet, Heather, Bernie, Patrick, Frankie, Debbie and Cherie.
Germaine speaks of her late husband Lawrence with so much pride and love. Larry left the Navy and started wholesaling fish. He ran a small operation on the harbour in Langford, and soon the couple expanded to open a fish market. Germaine worked hard running this busy enterprise, all while raising her family. Later the couple opened an additional fish market in Victoria’s Market Square.
Germaine and Janet both told stories of devastating loss that their family had to face. Loss that is so tragic you wonder how anyone would survive just one, yet they have had to deal with many. Despite this, Germaine remains kind, resilient and strong. She is a true survivor, and never hesitates to speak up for family, boasting 14 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.
Her advice to the youth is to “stay in school and get a good education.” Or, alternatively, she likes to tell them: “Go to Hollywood and become famous.”
What a joy you are to know, Germaine. Your dedication to your community and family is a gift and we thank you for being part of Naut’sa mawt Tribal Council’s Elders Council.