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Native elder dies at 85: Primate presented Vi Smith with church's highest award before her death

Posted on: August 30, 2001 6:19 PM
Related Categories: Canada

by Leanne Larmondin
Web site manager

Vi Smith, a well-known lay person and elder with the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples, died recently at the age of 85.

A member of the Gitksan Nation in northern British Columbia, Ms. Smith served the church at parish, diocesan and national levels, including the national church's Women's Unit, Council for Native Ministries and the Primate's Commission on Evangelism. She represented Canada on the international stage as a member of the steering committee for the Anglican Indigenous Network. She also served the diocese of Caledonia's Anglican Church Women branch. Her commitment was recognized earlier this year when she was presented with the Anglican Award of Merit, given to lay people who have made an outstanding contribution to the church.

The Primate, Archbishop Michael Peers, was in her home community of Hazelton, B.C., just prior to her death to present her with the award. Although she was in a coma, he made the presentation to her in the hospital and she was wearing the medallion when she died. Rev. Lorna Janze, deacon-in-charge at Ms. Smith's parish of St. Peter's Church, said the medal was only removed just before the casket was closed and was taken to the church.

In her work with the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples, Ms. Smith attended the first three of the four national native convocations and, in 1993, represented the gathering in accepting the apology of the Primate, Archbishop Michael Peers, for the church's role in the residential schools system.

In accepting the apology, Ms. Smith said, "It was offered from his heart with sincerity, sensitivity, compassion and humility. We receive it in the same manner. We offer praise and thanks to our Creator for his courage."

Ms. Smith also narrated the 1995 Anglican Video documentary The Seventh Fire, which told the story of Canadian indigenous people and the covenant they drafted to build an autonomous Aboriginal church in partnership with the Anglican Church of Canada.

Ms. Smith's husband, John 'Scotty' Smith, died in 1990; she is survived by many children and grandchildren.