As 2020 draws to a close, the Salmon Arm Observer is looking back at some of the stories that reflect the positive work, activities and accomplishments that occurred throughout this challenging year.
Lorna Thomas has lived a life full of learning and rich with experience, but she realized her grandchildren were getting something she didn’t have – and wanted.
A high school diploma.
At 68, the Secwépemc great grandmother, a member of the Neskonlith band, just earned her Dogwood diploma through the Neskonlith Education Centre in Salmon Arm.
In an interview peppered with infectious laughter, she said she doesn’t feel any different.
“Maybe just a little smarter.”
With a more serious tone, Lorna confides she feels like she’s accomplished something.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do but I never had the chance to go back to school; I was always working all the time.”
Lorna is the daughter of revered elder Dr. Mary Thomas, who died in 2007. Lorna was one of 17 children. Eleven are still alive, all but one living in Salmon Arm.
Lorna attended grades one through seven at Salmon Arm West Elementary.
Lorna raised two sons and a foster-daughter as a single mom after her eldest son was six. She now has 14 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren with two more on the way.
She says she learned a lot from her mom.
When Mary was still alive, Lorna went to Kamloops and took ethnobotany. “I got tired of it, I knew as much as the teacher,” she said.
Somewhat renowned locally for her delicious bannock, Lorna confirms she is the only one left who knows how to pit cook. She learned from her mom when the family used to catch fish from a fish run and barbecue it over the open fire.
Affected by medical concerns over the past few years which forced her to stop working, it was then Lorna decided it was time to go back to school.
“Then I’ve been seeing my grandchildren graduating. I thought if they can, I can do it.”