Chilliwack’s Frank Malloway receives honorary degree from UFV

Storyteller, teacher, healer, leader, respected elder, hereditary chief, witness, advocate, father, friend, grandpa, Siyémches. These words represent Frank Malloway: a man who is greatly respected and admired by so many in the Fraser Valley. Another word to describe Frank is humble.

This June, UFV is presenting Sto:lo Hereditary Chief Frank Malloway with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. Malloway is humbled by the nomination and says for a fellow who didn’t have a chance to finish elementary school, the degree is great gift.

“When I was young, my father was always saying I should go to a school to become a lawyer. Vancouver had the first Aboriginal lawyer in BC (Alfred Scow), and my dad kept saying ‘it can be done, and you can do it,’” says Malloway.  “But then I ended up with TB and was in hospital for more than three years. When that happened to you, your schooling just stopped. When I came home from the hospital, I think my dad was just so glad that I was alive that he didn’t force me to go back to school.”

Young Malloway, however, was ambitious and mechanically inclined. He attended Vancouver Community College where he earned his Basic Skills and Trades Development certificate. He had goals of achieving Grade 12 equivalency, but didn’t complete the math requirement, so instead he started looking for a job to keep him busy during the summer. One day he ventured over to the Coqualeetza Cultural Centre and started asking questions about job opportunities. He was asked to come back the next day so he could help organize the summer cultural programs. Not quite sure what that meant, he returned, prepared for just about anything.

Malloway stayed at Coqualeetza for more than eight years. He developed program curriculum, encouraged young students to try traditional crafts, and created programs for elders. He even tried his hand at grant applications and was successful in securing a large grant from the Vancouver Foundation that kept the program going for several years.

Word of his desire to teach spread through the valley and in 1976 he was approached by Clarence Pennier from the Chehalis Band. Frank moved his cultural program to Chehalis, but moved back to Coqualeetza after two years. Through his lobbying, the Coqualeetza Cultural Education Centre was eventually established and even today continues to provide a place for traditional learning. He was invited to take his culture programs into the Federal prisons in Agassiz; he worked at Mountain for several years, and then became engrossed in the project to build the Richard Malloway longhouse, where people live, worship, share stories, and gather to celebrate.

Now 75, when Frank is asked to reflect about his life, he says those years at Coqualeetza were some of his favourite ones. It was a time of discovery, and learning about his Aboriginal traditions. He worked with young people, peers, and elders. He had no idea he was making history.

“I always had so much respect for the elders. They never had a chance to go school, but they always knew their history and they never lost their language. They knew what was important and they kept it important. And I had the opportunity to learn from the elders.”

Today, Malloway is a respected elder, and president of the Chilliwack tribe. He is a founder of the Coqualeetza Cultural Education Centre, and a holds the role of traditional speaker in the Richard Malloway Memorial Longhouse, which he helped build and preserve. The respect he has earned over the decades crosses cultural and ethnic boundaries.

“Although Chief Malloway did not complete his formal education, the idea of education has always been a huge motivator for him. All aspects of his life have been committed to education, healing, and personal growth for all he encounters,” says Mike Watson of Sto:lo Community Futures. “As a non-Aboriginal, I have been exceedingly blessed by the guidance, education, cultural interpretations, and friendship of Chief Frank Malloway.”

When word got out that Malloway’s name had been suggested for an honorary degree, the nominating committee was immediately flooded with letters of support ― almost two dozen were received ― all filled with praise for Siyémches. The letters were written by local politicians, historians, researchers, educators, and fellow chiefs.

“Frank Malloway is an hereditary chief who follows in the footsteps of his father. He is also a strong cultural leader who preserves the stories and traditions,” says Mission mayor James Atebe.  “He is a natural leader who leads by example. He embodies the educational ideal; a tireless teacher, exemplar and ethical good-natured person with a remarkable depth of knowledge about Sto:lo stories and traditions.”

Malloway says he just did what needed doing. He has always been busy; try pinning him down for a meeting, or a visit. He continues to be engaged with Sto:lo government, treaty negotiations, economic development, and child and health care issues, and remains a strong voice for his people.

“Chief Malloway’s knowledge cannot be quantified or translated into curriculum on how to live an exemplary life,” says Skawahlook First Nation Chief Maureen Chapman. “His life work and sharing spirit demonstrate the relevancy and appropriateness of the honorary degree. He serves as a role model for our future leaders and youth.”

Ask Malloway, however, and he’ll wonder what all the fuss is about. Yes, he can list all the meetings he’s been to this month, and all the committees he sits on. But that’s his job, and one he’s proud to fulfill. He knows he has been lucky in life and comments on how blessed he is to have such a large and healthy family. But he’s humbled by the recent attention and says: “I was really just trying to help my people and did not want to get recognized for my work.”

Indeed, it is not his work that people talk about first. It’s the man and the spirit and respect he commands ― through years of dealing with the people of this region. People say he leads with his heart ― he also leads with his action.

They talk of a gentle hand on a shoulder when one is grieving, of Malloway splinting the leg of an injured puppy and making sure the pup has food, of building a longhouse where people can gather and pray, to listening, of being stalwart in his beliefs, of simply being there. He demonstrates that he is a man of few words, but his actions mean everything.

Malloway is also a dedicated family man. He has eight children, 24 grandchildren, and 24 great-grandchildren. On June 11, the day he receives this honorary degree, two of his grand-daughters will cross the stage at convocation to receive certificates.

For him, their moment on that stage is just as important as his accomplishment. And that in itself, speaks volumes of the man UFV honours.

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