Doug Boursema at the camp at Tyee Lake.

Doug Boursema at the camp at Tyee Lake.

A man of the church and community

Doug Boursema has a keen mind and an appetite for learning

I met Doug several years back when I needed to borrow 10 picnic tables for our Roper reunion. I knew he was caretaking the property at the north end of Tyee lake. What I didn’t know is how he got the job and whose property he was looking after. Turns out Doug is renting this property which the church leases as a summer Bible camp for Indigenous kids. The property is owned by Chuck David, a descendant of Tyee David.

Now I have complicated this story a bit, so let’s try to get to the beginning and sort it out.

In 1951, Doug’s parents immigrated from the Netherlands with their family of seven to Chatham Ontario. Six more siblings were born in Canada making up a true baker’s dozen. His father needed to be sponsored and they had a relative that would do just that.

Doug’s father was a church-going Christian and that life, singing and communing with members, suited Doug quite well. His father worked as a carpenter and taught the family some of those skills. Doug absorbed those skills but what he really wanted to do was teach. After high school, Doug completed teacher’s college and immediately began his life’s work. Over the next 10 years of teaching, Doug continued his education and completed his B.A.

Good, we are getting somewhere, but still need to know how Doug got to the Bulkley Valley. Well, as it turns out, Doug loved geography and thought he would be able to learn more about this country if he could move around to various locations.

This plan worked well. Through his connection with the Canadian Reformed Church and their affiliation with Christian schools, Doug found many work opportunities throughout Ontario and the Prairies. After a stint in Lethbridge, Alta., he decided to look up an old friend, Evert Jaspers, in an out-of-the-way place called Smithers, B.C.

Turns out there was carpentry work available and Doug took a job at Tricon Truss. Funny how his Dad’s training always found a way to provide support between teaching jobs. Eventually, a teaching job did become available at the Ebenezer Canadian Reformed School and Doug fit right in. He was able to also teach band and choir returning to his roots.

OK. So what about the property at the north end of Tyee lake? This goes back a way. Tyee David lived there back around 1904-05. This was the time when settlers were moving into the valley and able to pre-empt property. Several pieces of land around Tyee lake were being claimed. Tyee David was a smart man even though he could not read and write English he could see that he needed a claim to his property. He was able to convince Indian Agent Loring to compose a letter requesting the outright purchase of his land. So the property then became deeded to Tyee David and has been passed down through the family to the present day.

Alright, let’s tie this together. Doug finished up his teaching career of 20 years. The church Bible camp was located up on Hungry Hill. The church sold that property was looking for a new location. Through the grapevine, they became aware of the property on Tyee lake, and were able to lease it and bring Doug in as camp handyman and caretaker. The property had been used as a party site over the years and needed considerable cleanup. Church volunteers constructed tent sites and kitchen facilities. Of course, Doug was involved. He also signed up for flatwater canoe and kayak courses and was able to satisfy his teaching needs again once he became proficient.

This is not the end of the story. Doug also has a love for history. He spent many hours combing the micro-fiche files at the Smithers museum and eventually joined the society. When the opportunity came up to chair the Telkwa Museum Society, Doug volunteered. The rest is history, as they say, no pun intended.

Doug involved himself in many other projects along the trail including fall and burn, brushing and weeding, block layout and slope stability, guide outfitter training and raising horses.

Not too much can slow this guy down. Even though legally blind today, Doug still is working with Ted Widen using resources from both museums studying the timeline of the Village of Telkwa beginning around 1907.

Doug is able to magnify the print with a device called The Ruby and increase the size of lettering with his Apple computer. He is an interesting character, always learning with a very curious mind.