It seems only a few days ago that the world seemed to be coming to an end for the 249 inhabitants of Lytton and the 1,700 members of Lytton First Nation in the surrounding territory.
But it was three days in late June that Lytton and neighbouring First Nations had become known around the world as residents of an area of the globe that, on three consecutive days, had recorded the highest temperatures ever recorded in Canada. On the third day, June 29, the thermometer read 49.6C(121.3F).
It was the highest temperature ever recorded in the world north of the 45th parallel. It was also the day Lytton Mayor Jan Polderman signed an evacuation order for the village and surrounding area known by native tribes for an estimated 10,000 years as Camchin or Kumsheen – the place where the Thompson and Fraser Rivers meet.
Mayor Polderman issued his evacuation order at 6 p.m. on June 29. Citizens were given only minutes to pack bags and flee.
As reported a week ago in this spot, among the first to offer practical aid to a new population of homeless First Nations and white settler refugees was the Tk̓’emlúps te Secwépemc – The Kamloops First Nation. It already had a solid core of volunteer workers and emergency service organizations in place and immediately made those services available to the newly homeless.
Campsites were made freely available; stores jammed with donated clothing, toiletries and household items were opened; medical aid arranged, meals cooked and served. The kitchen was soon serving 100-plus at breakfast and double that number of lunches and dinners.
Dianne Kehler, deputy director of Tk’emlups Emergency Services, told the press a few days ago that she expects the flow of survivors to continue into fall. “We are prepared for anybody and anything.”
Typical of the refugees, Christine Abbott told reporters she and her husband were given 10 minutes to pack and leave their home, had found a great sense of community and security in the Kamloops camp. She is white, her husband a Lytton First Nation native. Both are thankful “to be in a safe place to break down and cry, and get mad then shake it off. We are healing. Everybody is here from every nation – this is total love.”
It’s what we call reconciliation and we can hope it’s just a beginning, and pray the hotheads among us, can learn the Tk’emlups way is better than destroying statues or burning a church or totem pole.