Morley elders celebrate 60th wedding anniversary

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, January 16, 2002

It was Jan. 15, 1942. A new Ford cost only $815.00, and you could fill it with gas for less than $4.00. Bread was nine cents a loaf, milk 15 cents a quart; and for just 39 cents you could buy yourself a pound of bacon – aroma, sizzle, and all.

In just two days' time, a legendary boxer would be born, later to be known as Muhammad Ali. And one of the hit songs of the day was There's a Loveknot in my Lariat.

On that day, a young cowboy of the Stoney First Nation at Morley had a loveknot in his lariat, too.

That was the day Lazarus Wesley joined Lily Wildman at the altar to "stand together before God" (Wakâ-hâbinch, as they say in the Stoney language about getting married).

This week Lazarus and Lily are celebrating their diamond anniversary. By way of this column, I would like to pay tribute to these venerable elders for their long journey together.

Lazarus and Lily's lives are deeply rooted in the ground of our provincial and national identity.

Lazarus is the grandson of the famous Ta Otha (Peter Wesley), last hereditary chief of the Wesley Band. It was to Ta Otha's traditional land in the Kootenay Plains west of Nordegg that Lazarus and Lily went by train and horseback for their honeymoon, to start their own life's memories amidst the heritage of their ancestors' memories.

(Much of Ta Otha's beautiful mountain domain, including burial sites, now lies at the bottom of Abraham Lake, the power reservoir created in the 1970s along the upper North Saskatchewan River.)

Lily descends from Chief Bearspaw, who in good faith signed Treaty 7 with the Queen's representatives in 1877 to facilitate the settlement of southern Alberta – and tragically, to make the tribes of Treaty 7 prisoners on their own lands.

During their 60 years together, Lazarus and Lily have lived along the Alberta foothills from west of Nordegg, to Morley west of Cochrane, and to Eden Valley west of Longview.

Although Lazarus has supported his family in many ways – by logging, ranching, construction, and program management –, it's his environmentally sensitive skills as a hunter that most often have put food before his children.

Using the hides and meat from the hunt, Lily became well regarded as a maker of dried meat and pemmican, and as a tanner of hides and designer of buckskin clothes.

Lazarus and Lily knew particularly well the hills and mountains along the Kananaskis River, their traditional hunting camp area that is closed to them now because of the province's development of Kananaskis Country, Nakiska Ski Area, and Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.

In recent years Lazarus and Lily's exceptional knowledge of the Stoney language and culture has enabled them to assume important roles in traditional education and cross-cultural communication, and has won them royal visits and international tours.

In the mid-70s they headed up the Stoney Wilderness Centre to which visitors from around the world would come to gain insight into traditional native ways.

Lily has conducted courses for the younger Stoney women in the art of fashioning animal hides into beautifully beaded moccasins, gloves, and dancing outfits. Lazarus has served on the Alberta Solicitor General's Committee for the Improvement of Native Community/Police Relations.

Most important to Lazarus and Lily, however, is their Christian ministry. To this they have committed most of their lives as a couple "standing together before God."

They work across denominational lines as nonchalantly as if they were stepping over a twig along a trail. They visit the sick, comfort the grieving, guide the searching, and teach the listening.

In the 36 years my wife Mary Anna and I have known them, they have been mentors and companions to us.

We had come to Stoney Country originally to help translate Scripture into Stoney. Lazarus and Lily were among the first to take us by the hand and help us translate Scripture into life.

Let's raise our cups in a toast to Lazarus and Lily: Happy anniversary, and God bless!

© 2002 Warren Harbeck

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