May 12, 1931 – June 16, 2011.
After a long illness Dr. Earl Claxton, respected elder of the Tsawout First Nation (East Saanich), died peacefully last week at the Jubilee Hospice in Victoria with his family at his side. Keeper of a wealth of knowledge of traditional WSANEC (Saanich) culture and the SENCOTEN language, Dr. Claxton received an Honourary Doctorate of Laws at the University of Victoria in 2006 for his work on documenting and preserving the language. He was best known on Salt Spring Island from his visits to speak at cultural events – most recently at an Elders Luncheon at Beaver Point Hall in April 2009, hosted by SSI Justice and Reconciliation. All those present were moved by Earl’s gentle spirit and humour, the great responsibility he carried as one of the last fluent speakers of SENCOTEN and the depth of his sorrow at the steady loss of ancient cultural connections in these islands, linked to the passing of the language. He will be deeply missed.
Known with respect and affection in his community as Uncle Earl, he worked for BC Ferries for many years and, according to family, was a jack of all trades. He will always be remembered for his commitment to the preservation of the SENCOTEN language, building upon the work of late Dave Elliott Sr., author of Saltwater People. For many years Dr. Claxton worked with the University of Victoria as a curriculum developer and researcher for the SENCOTEN language as well as for the Lummi First Nation in Washington State.
Dr. Claxton leaves his wife Joanne and four children including Earl Claxton Jr., also a keeper of cultural knowledge and Chief Allan Claxton; brother and former Chief Louis Claxton and Belinda Claxton, an important knowledge-keeper in the traditional use of plants. He also leaves eight grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, many nieces and nephews and countless friends. A celebration of life for Dr. Claxton was organized by family on Monday, June 20 at the Saanich Fairgrounds followed by a funeral Tuesday morning and burial at Tsawout Cemetery.