Florence James is a Coast Salish elder and educator from Penelakut Island. She is a fluent speaker of the Coast Salish dialect, Hul’q’umi’num. She has lived her life in the Gulf Islands, on Galiano and Penelakut Island, in the traditional territory of Puneluxutth’. She is an educator and lifelong learner who draws on both her traditional gifts and teachings from the Ancestors and her university-based education. Florence is a highly respected elder in her community, widely known for her cultural expertise, her knowledge of and dedication to the environment, and her commitment to the care and education of young children. Her biggest inspiration and motivation to do what she does is “the love from the babies of the future and youth of today”.
Florence has been involved in many language, cultural heritage, and environmental education projects over the last decade. She grew up on a remote island setting and was taught by her father and grandfather. She is well-versed in traditional knowledge of forest plants and ecology as well as marine life. She is a particular advocate for eelgrass conservation, knowing through traditional teachings, formal education, and direct observation of the key role that eelgrass beds play in health of marine ecosystems and well-being of Coast Salish people. Florence has shared her biocultural knowledge and expertise generously with school groups, naturalists, professional film makers, researchers and international visitors.
Florence was taught by her family that it is important to share the knowledge to keep the culture alive and to protect the environment for future generations. Her holistic approach to teaching and sharing knowledge strengthens other peoples’ understanding of the spiritual dimensions of the environment, relations to land, and how to look after the land and its inhabitants. Her ultimate goal in life is to hear 2-4 year olds speak fluently with their parents, and have culture lived with traditional teachings.