Tribute to a great man: Charles Callbreath
October 29th, 2010 - 11:23am
“It was with immense sadness that I heard from my friend Judy Thompson this week of the passing of her grandfather, Charles Callbreath, a great man who lived his long and eventful life to the fullest.
The last time I saw Charley and his wife Julia was at the 100th Anniversary of the Tahltan Declaration signing on Oct. 18 in Telegraph. Sitting in a row of chairs for dignitaries and elders was Charles Callbreath, wise eyes overseeing his nation’s honouring of its past. If there was anyone qualified to speak of that history, it was Charley. At age 101, he had personally seen the Tahltan and the entire region go through the most profound changes imaginable.
We joked afterwards, with me speaking closely into his right ear. We talked about what a great celebration this was and how proud he was to witness his people come together in commemoration and unity. He was vigorous and curious about all going on around him and was pleased he had insisted on traveling the hundreds of kilometres from his home in Prince Rupert to Telegraph Creek.
The political world I work in rewards quick reactions and sometimes hasty decisions. Media and the Internet drive at a pace that gives little time for reflection or thoughts of our past. Whenever I had the good fortune to spend time with Charley, I entered a more patient world, a world in which our history is as important as our future, where relationships, friendships and understanding are the most important tools to a good life and strong community.
We often talk about loss when a person dies, and the greater the life the greater the loss. The Tahltan have lost an elder and a critical connection to a life many cannot imagine.
In his passing we are meant to reflect on what Charley left behind: a beautiful marriage of 77 years with his beloved Julia, a close-knit family that spans five generations and includes, in addition to his own children, 14 grandchildren, 16 great grandchildren, and six great great grandchildren. Like Charley, his family is strong in their pursuit of traditional knowledge and proud of their Tahltan heritage. Charley also leaves behind numerous cousins, nephews and nieces and a very large circle of friends. Those of us fortunate enough to have counted Charley as family or friend will find comfort, I know, in the memories of the wise and gentle words and beautiful smile that were ever present on Charley’s lips, his kind heart, and his legendary love of story-telling, numbers, and the Tahltan language.
An entire region has lost a statesman and a true builder of bridges. We share the loss of this iconic man with his family and friends. And in committing ourselves to honour his amazing legacy, we will continue the journey toward the gentle and just world that Charles Callbreath dedicated his life to building.”