Tofino Profile: Sandra George
by Shirley Langer, Tofino
Born and raised here, Sandra's life is deeply rooted in Tofino. Her parents and grandparents are long-time residents, and her marriage to First Nations man Richard George of Ahousaht has cemented her relationship to the area significantly. She admits that standing in two cultures was scary at first, and that it took a long time until she could relax and feel comfortable. She continues to read books on native culture which she has grown to admire and respect. Sandra explains that someday, husband Richard, grandson of recently deceased chief Earl George, will one day become Chief of the Ahousaht. She already is anticipating the weight of the responsibility that comes with that position. Sandra's Nu-Chah-Nulth title will be "Hakuum"--Princess, and to prepare for that time, she must learn special tribal songs and dances.
As a town girl, Sandra once felt surrounded by a sea of familiar faces, but these days she's amazed by the number of people she doesn't know. When I approached her about being the subject of this profile, she didn't hesitate: "This is an opportunity for people I don't know to get to know me a little."
Sandra's grandfather, Burt Demeria, a Metis, came here from Saskatchewan., it was he who painted the sign by the First Street Dock that informs people they have reached the western terminus of the Trans Canada Highway. I search Sandra's face for traces of native features, but see none in her freckled face, light brown hair and clear grey eyes. Father, John Shaw worked for the coastguard for thirty-two years, and mother, Linda Shaw, worked at the hospital for twenty-five years. Speaking of her family,
Sandra's voice warms. She is one of those lucky ones to have all sets of parents and grandparents near her and affectionately involved with her young family.
Sandra has been married ten years. Her wedding ring is engraved with the image of a hummingbird, because one appeared close to them when Richard proposed (on bended-knee at Radar Hill). They have three children, all boys--Jaiden, Kaelib and Neaco, names created by Sandra and Richard. She tells me her first-born was not pleased at the birth of the second child. "Put it back, Mom," he ordered.
Both she and Richard devote considerable time volunteering at the elementary school. Both work in the family business, The House of Himwitsa, Sandra in sales and Richard managing and keeping the web site up-to-date.
When she's not mothering, working or volunteering at the school, Sandra is running. She runs one and one half hours on average, usually on sand, often running the stretch from Long Beach to Combers. In 2005, she ran 11 km. on an Edge To Edge relay team. Next year she plans to run a half marathon, from Tofino to Greenpoint. Recently, she and her 63 year-old father, hiked up Lone Cone.
Sandra's appearance reflects the fit outdoorswoman that she is. She started early. She recalls three special years from age ten to thirteen that she spent riding horses at Pacific Rim Ranch, no longer in existence. "I'd go to the ranch whenever I could and do as much work as I could in exchange for riding the horses. My pals and I would ride along the beach, often in the water. The horses would swim. Many times I rode to Radar Hill." Gradually Sandra was hired to work for pay, $10.00 an hour leading trail rides throughout the large property and on the beach. Describing this activity, Sandra's face is ecstatic. She still dreams of owning a horse.
Raising three boys and working in the store determines Sandra's life these days. As a kid she used to produce pieces of artwork--"mostly abstract"--and would like to do more. Her yearbook blurb said, "I'd like to sell a piece of my art for a million dollars". While she no longer has such grandiose ideas, Sandra is thinking ahead, favouring studying massage because she loves "the peaceful atmosphere and quiet order of spas".
Sandra and I discover we have something in common. We both are rock collectors. Not only does she bring smooth round rocks back from her own travels, but her family and friends also contribute to her mania. (My family doesn't, in their effort to discourage me) So throughout Sandra's house, there are rocks from Mexico, China, Cambodia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Costa Rica and other places. She claims to know where each rock was acquired. Like me, she says that one day she will take all her rocks to a beach and deposit them back in nature.
Sandra feels deeply for the natural world, and feels best when she's out in it. As a teenager, she participated in the protests of 1993 calling for protection of the forests of Clayoquot Sound. She recalls how upsetting the divisions among the high school students and people in the community were, and how she was taunted with the names "hippie" and "tree-hugger".
"Even so, I'd do it again," she says.
This prompted a discussion of the use of the word "hippie" by ignoramuses to describe anyone whose lifestyle or actions reflect a commitment to improving the environment. Hippie, shmippie!
When next you see the lovely young woman in the picture, don't be a stranger. Say Hi.
Shirley Langer describes herself as a woman about town with a well developed civic consciousness.