Honoring DG David Hamilton

Sayt-K’il’im-Goot: One Heart, One Path, One Nation

Inspiration: A Life of Leadership and Levity

On March 29, 2021, the world lost a true peacebuilder, the beloved District 5040 Governor, David Hamilton, lost a five-year battle with cancer, but his leadership and legacy remain an animating force throughout British Columbia and lives on through our continued partnership.

Dave first became familiar with MBBI during a President Peace Symposium workshop in Vancouver in, Spring of 2018.  He had so much fun that he told our CEO and President, Prabha Sankaranarayan, that he too wanted to practice mediation “when he grows up.” 

So when it came time to design his ambitious District Conference, Dave contacted Prabha to involve MBBI from the outset. With the theme of “Family”, Dave had decided to hold his conference in Terrace, BC where he grew up, and invite the neighboring Nisga’a Nation to participate in a meaningful way. 

Over the next year, David and his committee invited MBBI and the Nisga’a Nation representatives to work collaboratively to co-design a unique experience incorporating the wisdom of Nisga’a traditions, the values of Rotary, and MBBI’s experience in innovative event design. The partnership was solidified during the Hoobiyee (New Years’) Celebrations in Vancouver between Conference Chair, Blake Cowan; the Nisga’a Executive Leadership, President Eva Clayton, Executive Chair Brian Tate, Bobby Clark, Leslie Robinson; and MBBI members, Martin and Lorelei Higgins.  Though Dave was undergoing treatment and unable to attend, he still managed to call in briefly! 

Governor Hamilton was determined to expand the definition of “Family” by creating an opportunity for cross-cultural learning between neighbors at the District Conference and develop relationships, practices, and skills that would continue long after the event.  To achieve this, we would need to train over 60 Rotarians, Nisga’a Nation representatives, and community leaders in the art of facilitation.  These cohorts of MBBI certified Peace Conversation Facilitators (PCF) would go on to lead dozens of Peace Conversations in clubs throughout the District before and long after the conference. 

Inclusion: Redefining How We Engage 

What stands out the most about Dave was his strength of character to approach this endeavor with the equal parts of determination and humility required to transform the manner by which we thoughtfully engage with our Indigenous neighbors- breaking old patterns that have tended to patronize and tokenize.  Instead, through the guidance of MBBI consultant, Lorelei Higgins, herself a member of the Metis Nation, the team deftly navigated a process in the true spirit of reconciliation with grace. 

Though not intended, we believe what Dave began can become a model for other Districts who want to engage meaningfully with their Indigenous communities and foster spaces for shared learning and inclusion in the Rotary Family.  This collaborative approach and investment in learning about one another’s culture as a fundamental practice that in turn becomes part of your culture.

Indigenous Wisdom: Thread Sensibility

“… every entity is individually insufficient and indispensable to the success of the whole.” 
(Towards Braiding by E. Jimmy, V. Andretti, and S. Stein)

A guiding principle describing Indigenous practices as thread sensibility draws on the metaphor of a woven or braided tapestry wherein each thread is valued for its individually insufficient and indispensable role as part of a dynamic whole. It places emphasis on collective strength where knowledge is experiential, contextual, interdependent, adaptive, and dynamic.

Individually Insufficient and Indispensable 

Learning to be adaptive proved to be essential as COVID-19 forced the District Conference Committee to recalibrate their plans- shifting both the event and the preceding trainings entirely online. Dave’s courage and leadership were indispensable, but also singularity insufficient- one simply cannot do this alone.  Joined by Blake Cowan, and Past District Governor John Anderson, the dynamic trio held the project team together by successfully braiding determination, vision, and tradition- pushing through the dual challenges of a global pandemic and Dave’s own health to form an unbreakable bond. 

This also beautifully illustrates the Nisga’a moto of “Sayt K’il’im Goot” expressed as One Heart, One Path, One Nation. 

. . He embodied the four cornerstones of Rotarian values, through his commitment to truth, fairness, benevolence, goodwill, and friendship. He wholly embraced the Nisga’a nations’ weighty virtues of truth, humility, wisdom, respect, honesty, courage, love, and wisdom. And he playfully incorporated MBBI’s culture of levity, generosity, curiosity, discovery, authenticity, open-mindedness, and acceptance. He seamlessly wove these three sets of values together into the fabric of his character.

Invitation: Honor the Legacy of Dave Hamilton

To honor the legacy and work of DG David Hamilton, we encourage you to consider participating in the District 5040 Conference, June 5-6th, and consider whether this unique model could be beneficial in District, Club or community.  

Register & Discover: https://rotary5040.org/Page/2021-district-conference