Ernest Goodlet Hill was born in Hartley Bay, B.C. on August 3, 1940.
He was the eldest son of Ernest Mathew Hill and Marjorie Hill (nee Robinson). He was predeceased by both his parents and brother Robert Hartley Hill (Violet) and survived by his sisters, Violet Rose Adams (Keith), Doris Bertrand (Normand) and younger brother Clare. Ernie married Lynne Fiddes, on August 10, 1963. They met in High school and were inseparable in their lives, their work and in their hearts. This August would have marked 55 years together. As a devoted loving couple they raised two children, Cameron (Eva) and Jodi-Lynne (Derek). His children were always in his heart and he loved them more than anything and he continually gave them his unwavering love, attention, guidance, advice, and support. Ernie has 3 beloved grandchildren – Rachel is 21, Morgan is 19 and Max is 15. It would be impossible to even fathom the depth of love Ernie has for the members of his family and his loyalty and devotion for each of them. Ernie was born to take a special predestined place amongst his people. Special lullabies were sung and special ceremonies were observed on the day he was born. Marjorie was an elite member of the Eagle Clan and as her eldest son, he was a special Eagle also. She was the eldest sister of Charlie Robinson, who was the eldest son of Violet Robinson, who was the eldest sister of Lewis Clifton, who was the Chief of the Gitga’at Eagles of the House of Sinaxeet. Right from the day of his birth and even before, his destiny was written. Many important people were responsible to train him in the ways of the Gitga’at. It was crucial that he learn the customs, the laws, the stories, the history. Throughout his life he was reminded of his responsibilities. He had many teachers – his mother, his grandmother, his Uncles. Ernie was mindful of his role, and always strived to act from a position of dignity and wisdom. As every Gitga’at member knows, Ernie was an exemplary chief. Each time a family lost a loved one, and returned to Hartley Bay, Ernie ‘fed the people.’ He put out the welcome mat and provided a sumptuous dinner for everyone attending in the village. He tirelessly gave of his talent, time and wisdom to help build and protect what is rightfully Gitga’at’s, and represented his people with quiet dignity and respectful resolve. Ernie spoke Sm’algyax as his first language. When he first came back to work as the Principal of our School he saw the need to have the language preserved and to have a writing system created so that it could survive for future generations. To that end he sent his aunt Daphne Anderson to work with Professor John Dunn, a student of Bruce Rigsby who was instrumental in working with the Nisga’a language. Dr. Dunn and Ernie worked for many years to complete this work. Ernie was passionate that his first language be pure and sometimes he has felt himself standing alone, but his resolve never faltered. When a student in school in Hartley Bay, Ernie made a promise to his beloved Chief John Clifton that he would return to Hartley Bay to help with the education of the coming generations. Ernie kept that promise, after completing his university training at UBC and Simon Fraser, and returned with Lynne and his baby son Cameron, in the fall of 1968 to begin his career as the school principal – a job he worked at for 46 years. He was the longest serving principal at a single school in Canada. Throughout his life, in the summers, Ernie was a commercial fisherman. He fished on the family-owned seine boat the Qitonsta. Being out on the water, providing a living for his family and food, was something that he really enjoyed. He looked forward to the springtime and the chance to go to Kiel to gather food and just to spend time on the land and the water. He especially enjoyed eating seagull eggs and loved it when Cameron was able to gather enough to last till after Labour Day. Ernie loved Christmas, and took great pride in setting up his Christmas Village. One year for his birthday Jodi set up, in August, a “Christmas theme” which made him so happy. He loved music – he played the piano and really enjoyed listening to Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison. A favourite song he had dedicated to Lynne was “The 12th of Never” by Johnny Mathis. Ernie worked hard all of his life. His retirement made him sad, because he missed the school, and the students and his work colleagues. He continued to lead some classes in Sm’algyax, and cultural teachings, in the years after his retirement with the students sitting on his living room floor on blankets and around his dining room table. School and education in general was extremely important to him, even sacred. Sadly though, the illnesses he had took their toll. Diabetes, heart failure, and prostate cancer were relentless. One of his last days in Hartley Bay in his home he reached over to Lynne, took her hand and kissed her, and said, “This should never have happened” and Lynne said,” you are right, it never should have.” We shall miss Ernie – his welcoming smile, his incredible generosity, his outstanding leadership and his unwavering courage.