Chief Nuximlayc (Noel Pootlass), left, helped honour Jeff Snow at the hereditary chiefs’ feast. Snow was given a carved whale fin in honour of his 36 years of service as a paramedic, 30 of those in the Bella Coola Valley. His wife Louise March, right, helped him accept the award. (Chief Wits’lks (Peter Siwallace) photo)

Chief Nuximlayc (Noel Pootlass), left, helped honour Jeff Snow at the hereditary chiefs’ feast. Snow was given a carved whale fin in honour of his 36 years of service as a paramedic, 30 of those in the Bella Coola Valley. His wife Louise March, right, helped him accept the award. (Chief Wits’lks (Peter Siwallace) photo)

Bella Coola paramedic retires but still plans to serve community

Honoured at ceremony for 30 years with BC Ambulance

Jeffrey Snow came into his work as a paramedic by accident.

While living in Vancouver, Snow was working with refugees from El Salvador, helping them access services and integrate.

Snow was then offered a job with a private ambulance service, Western Ambulance Company, because he had his Class 4 driver’s license.

“They were having trouble finding people to work on the ambulance at that time, surprise, surprise, it’s still happening today,” joked Snow.

“Well, I guess I’ll give it a whirl,” Snow recalls thinking, over 36 years later.

After he moved back to Bella Coola Valley, Snow was recruited to work for the BC Ambulance Service there and spent the next 30 years as a paramedic in the valley.

The small town had far fewer calls and Snow said this was a reflection of the self-reliance of the people in small towns, joking someone with an arm cut off would just find their way to the hospital.

Over the many years of service, Snow said he witnessed a lot of traumatic things, and while he did reach out to access critical incident stress (CIS) resource personnel, he felt like those he dealt with in CIS couldn’t truly relate.

“I found it really frustrating to even talk to these people,” said Snow.

For his retirement, he was provided a sacred ceremony recently in the Nuxalk songhouse as part of the hereditary chiefs’ feast.

The ceremony was to symbolically wash away the hurt and traumatic experiences he had experienced as a result of his work and included being brushed with burning branches as he wore a ceremonial blanket.

“I feel that really helped me a lot,” explained Snow. “You can’t unsee things and there’s been so may things over the 36 years as a paramedic.”

As a retired man, Snow will continue to serve his community.

He plans to help engage with youth and to teach and update the mask and song dance ceremonies he learned under senior elders when he was a child.

“I learned a lot of the old, old ways of the dances and the meaning behind those,’ explained Snow.

While the traditions have changed, Snow wants to find ways and seek guidance in how to make these traditions relevant to our current times and young people.

He recalls how his elders were able to bring the traditions into the present when he was young and he wants to help do the same for today’s young people.

“I’m hoping that would be a springboard to help others,” said Snow.

He credits his wife Louise March with being a big support in this work as well, as she and other women from the community helped to make some ceremonial blankets he donated to the school.

Read more: Paramedic with PTSD launches new mental health tool for first responders



ruth.lloyd@wltribune.com

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