Virginia Gregoire | Okanagan



Tribal Nation



Portrait of Virginia Gregoire sitting in front of a wooden house

During fifty-three years of marriage, Virginia Gregoire and her late husband Leonard shared their home with over thirty foster children—and they had two sons and daughters of their own. In her own words, Virginia said, “Our door was always open to those who needed a helping hand.” Their house was a home of abundance. 

Virginia grew up in a large extended family on the Okanagan Indian Band Reserve. Her parents Edward and Ella Bonneau were fluent speakers of the language and those were the words that surrounded her from birth. This was a particular and most precious wealth—relatives and the language. Among her relatives, Virginia names her túpa, her great-grandmother, Mary Logan, as the most influential relative in her life. Mary had extensive knowledge of traditional food and medicine plants that she shared with Virginia. Today, when Virginia recognizes a plant, it brings back memories of her túpa and her teachings. Mary showed her how to have compassion and respect for herself and others. Virginia’s life exemplifies these lessons in her care for foster children and how she passes them on within her family and community.

Through an unusual route, Virginia began teaching her language to young children. That route was on a school bus- literally. At the age of thirty-nine, Virginia started driving a school bus on her reserve. When she would drop the kids off at school, the staff would say, “Come in, come in, and share some language!” Shortly after, she began teaching as the school language teacher. She has worked with children ages six months to six-years old in the language since 1998. At the age of eighty-two, she is still at it. She visits the Language Nest daily from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM. She takes her granddaughter to winter ceremony. She is a mentor for the Language Master Apprentice program. She does recordings of the language and she teaches on the computer when it is the only way she can

Virginia has led an abundant life and it continues.