When you walk into his home, you are instantly welcomed. The door opens and closes often. Children, friends, family and even strangers are greeted with a warm smile.
Drums and artwork fill the living room. His wife sits with him. The two are close, it’s a bond felt ever so evidently.
“We’ve been married five years,” Francois Prince says. Francois, more commonly known as “Guy” was born and raised in Fort. St. James.
“I love teaching in and out of my home,” Prince says. “To see my culture coming alive in my home is a true blessing.”
Keeping his Carrier culture alive is something Prince is very passionate about. And much of this is done through teaching.
Prince, 48, and his wife Ruby, both graduated with teaching diplomas from UBC. “It was the first time university programs like this were offered here,” he said.
The four year program led to teaching in various schools and currently Prince holds a position as a cultural liaison with Carrier Sekani Family Services where he works with front line workers from clinicians to teachers in helping them better understand cultural differences and how to blend in with the community and its programs.
Ruby works as an addiction recovery counsellor with Carrier Sekani Family Services.
Prince, himself, is well aware of the effects of addiction.
“I grew up learning to respect everything around me. My father taught me to respect life, land and water. I was the youngest of 10 children and I was taught to respect my elders,” he said.
Growing up though, he didn’t feel that support from his elders. He dropped out of school and ended up following a bad road, a road that led him to drugs, alcohol and jail at the young age of 17.
“I was addicted and I stayed on that bad road for almost 25 yrs. My parents passed away when I was on that road but in 2005 I finally sobered up,” Prince said.
“My road to recovery led me to Ruby. She helped me and supported me,” he said.
Having lived on the streets himself, Prince now mentors youth in the community and they look up to him. “He’s always quiet but he’s always there for the community,” Ruby says. “He has such impact. He’ll never admit it but he really does. Everyone loves him,” she said.
Prince speaks regularly at youth conferences and to high risk youth about native pride and making good choices. He has spoken at “The Key” about addiction and continues to travel to elementary schools to teach staff and students about the Carrier culture.
He also teaches drum making, singing and drumming. Both he and Ruby belong to the Didoh Ne Drummers who perform regularly at community events.
Prince is also a well-known artist. You might recognise his work at the Stuart Hospital.
For Prince, it truly is about culture. “Right now, I am so passionate about keeping the language alive. Everyone thinks it’s lost but it’s not,” Prince says. “It’s all about re-introducing culture back into the community.”
And for Prince, there is no better way than through teaching.
“My dad was a teacher. He always taught. And it’s amazing because that’s what I’m doing right now. I think he lost hope for our culture when I became addicted. He lost hope for passing on the culture.”
Prince recalls the first story his dad ever told him.
A young boy was playing at the river. He fell in and turned into a salmon. When his parents caught him, he turned back into a boy.
“Look at the life of the salmon,” Prince says. “If the boy dosen’t stay with his parents, he’ll get into trouble. Just like salmon need to stay with their group in order to survive and be safe, the boy too needs to be with his parents.”
Prince intends on staying with his group and will continue to bring others, young and old back to their culture. “My dad would be proud. I am passing on the culture. I feel I can now honour him.”