Ashley Gregoire will tell you she comes from lines of strong Okanagan voices. Her grandmother’s voice continues to speak their language to the ears of young children. Ashley’s great-grandmother Ella was known as a powerful, beautiful singer. The strength of her voice is legendary, and people share the story of her singing at an important event in an arena. A microphone was passed to her and she pushed it aside. She sang out clear and her voice resonated throughout the arena.
Ashley learned a lot by listening to the voice of her relatives and elders. She learned a lot by listening. There came a time in her life when she would draw on all of these memories of what elders and relatives had said. Ashley found herself in a hard place, following a loss that she could not seem to get over. She struggled with it for years. An opportunity came along for a training and she talked herself into taking it. On the drive there and back, the land got her attention, and she found her voice. She spoke to the land and she spoke to her ancestors. She prayed. She prayed in the best way she knew and had been taught.
Something shifted that day, and soon the opportunity to take a language class came her way. Ashley took it and then another. Her prayer was soon answered, and she was offered a job at the Cultural Immersion School. She took it and it changed her life. It changed the way she thought about herself.
Ashley would like to share her experiences with young women in her community. Life can be hard, and the world is full of distractions and negative messages from the media that surround them. She wants to tell them, when they are hurting or feel lost to “look to your own teachings. You should look to your roots. You should look to your land, your elders, your language. You should look to the water.”
Ashley did that and she found herself. She found she belonged to her land, to her language, and to her community and that they belong to each other. She found her voice. Ashley’s grandmother calls her a language warrior.