First Wetland Restored at Xwaaqw’um Village

After many decades of deteriorating ecological conditions at Xwaaqw’um Village (Burgoyne Bay Provincial Park), Quw’utsun Elders, along with support from Stqeeye’ Learning Society, Cowichan Tribes, BC Wildlife Federation and BC Parks have completed installation of the first wetland at Xwaaqw’um. Along with a first priority of mending relationships between Local Indigenous and Non-Indigenous people by learning how Hul’q’umi’num culture can guide the work of enabling highly productive local endangered ecosystems and local foods to once again thrive at Xwaaqw’um Village. Releasing the natural inland water flows at Xwaaqw’um Village from the rapid diversion by agricultural ditches and buried drain lines will help bring rare wetland plants used for weaving and other culturally important plant and animal species back. A 660 square metre wetland was created at Xwaaqw’um Village on the east boundary of Burgoyne Bay Provincial Park. Wetland construction was completed in September 201…
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Salt Spring Filmmakers Screen 'Raven People Rising' to Sold Out VIFF Crowd

A film by a Salt Spring Island trio that had its world premiere at the Salt Spring Film Festival last spring was just screened at a sold-out, gala red-carpet screening at the Vancouver International Film Festival. Directed by Andrea Palframan, shot and edited by Gary McNutt and Alex Harris, the film chronicles the Heiltsuk Nation as they fought to push Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline off of B.C.’s coast. Just a few weeks after that victory, the Nation suffered a devastating loss: the Nathan E. Stewart ran aground and spilled diesel and lubricants into one of the maritime community’s most important fishing grounds. The Salt Spring filmmakers travelled to Bella Bella in the aftermath of the spill. They found that, though the community was reeling from the fallout of a mis-managed spill response, they were also working to revitalize Indigenous legal frameworks, engaging youth in deep cultural and language immersion programs, and honing a vision of the future grounded …
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Islands Trust Council Makes Reconciliation Declaration

The Islands Trust Council acknowledges that the lands and waters that encompass the Islands Trust Area have been home to Indigenous peoples since time immemorial and honours the rich history, stewardship, and cultural heritage that embody this place we all call home. The Islands Trust Council is committed to establishing and maintaining mutually respectful relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. Islands Trust states a commitment to Reconciliation with the understanding that this commitment is a long-term relationship-building and healing process. The Islands Trust Council will strive to create opportunities for knowledge-sharing and understanding as people come together to preserve and protect the special nature of the islands within the Salish Sea. The Declaration acknowledges that the lands and waters that encompass the Islands Trust Area have been home to Indigenous peoples since time immemorial, and outlines the commitment the Islands Trust has…
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Pipeline Activism: Thoughts On My Trial, Part 2

I’m back from the rabbit hole of court – the B.C. Supreme Court, in downtown Vancouver. Last fall, I spent five days there, self-representing my not guilty plea, after arrest for protesting on March 23rd in front of Texas oil-giant Kinder Morgan’s tank farm in Burnaby, now Trans Mountain Canada, owned by all Canadians. Three others are being tried with me, arrested on different days, represented by lawyers. We didn’t finish last fall, so resumed on March 12th, taking another day and a half to close my case. On May 1st, the judge will phone me to give his verdict. If guilty, as he’s found to date for nearly all arrestees, nearly 240 total, I’ll return to court for sentencing. I entered this strange world with such naiveté. The Alice in Wonderland feeling starts with remembering how professionally I thought the RCMP behaved throughout the protest, as if their respectful treatment of protesters would be matched by legal competency. Failing that, I thought they’d bear the con…
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Xwaaqw’um Snuhwulh Canoe Launch

After almost 6 months of work, the Xwaaqw'um Snuhwulh (canoe) was launched today to the delight of all the relations who joined to celebrate the launch. Dancing, songs and ceremony were led by local elder Tousilum (Ron George). The new Snuhwulh (Canoe) was named Xwaaqw'um and given to elder Tousilum as a gift for years of dedication to his people and culture. The Snuhwulh was carved from a single cedar tree led by Tla-o-qui-aht / Nuu-chah-nulth Master Carver Joe Martin, project lead assistant carver Joe Akerman, assistant carver Christopher Roy, and dozens of Quw’utsun (Cowichan) and Salt Spring locals. The Snuhwulh will be used for local youth programs, Tribal Journey and local community gatherings. Photos by Christopher Roy.
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Interpretive Panels Moves Forward with Boost from Heritage Legacy Fund

Island Pathways is receiving a much-needed boost of $4100 to support its interpretive panels program, which will highlight the history of heritage locations and building along the Ganges Village Pathway Network. The funding comes through the Heritage Legacy Fund, the only provincial grant program that supports heritage conservation, awareness, planning and Indigenous partnership projects. Island Pathways will be partnering with the SSI Historical Society, the Japanese Garden Society, the Museum at the Farmers’ Institute and others who know the history of SSI much better than we do, to create and install historical panels along the GVPN. Many people walk/cycle the GVPN including tourists and other visitors. The pathways are accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week throughout the year. They are true community spaces and they are well used by the four schools in the area, dog walkers, visitors, seniors living in the many senior’s residences downtown and everyone else who…
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Work Progressing on the Xwaaqw'um Big Canoe - Carver's Host Fernwood Nature Class Visits

The 32’ foot-long snuhwulh (big canoe), carved from a single 710 year old X’pey (western red cedar tree) downed in a river valley windstorm will be finished over the next month or so for the Xwaaqw’um Project (aka Burgoyne Bay). “The Hul'q'umi'num word for canoe is snuhwulh, which means to transport people,” says Joe Akerman, local community organizer for the Xwaaqw’um Project . “The ocean and rivers were the highways for Coast Salish people. Now many folks make use of land canoes (cars and trucks) in Coast Salish Territory.” The snuhwulh will become an integral part of upcoming Indigenous youth culture and leadership camps at Xwaaqw’um, along with use by school groups and cultural events for many years to come.

The carving of the canoe is being led by Master Carver, Joe Martin from Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation on Vancouver Island, who has completed over 70 dugout canoes in his lifetime, along with assistant carvers Joe Akerman and Christopher Roy. The entire …

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Salish Sea Featured in Latest Langscape Magazine

“Reconnection and Reconciliation in the Salish Sea, Pacific Northwest” is the specially featured section in the Winter 2017 issue of Langscape Magazine. Three writers from around the Salish Sea region contributed stories to this section. On Salt Spring Island, Joe Akerman comes home—literally and metaphorically—to Hwaaqw’um, a village site of his Quw’utsun (Coast Salish) ancestors, as a place to “heal the land, relationships with one another, and the people and communities around us as we find ways to reconnect to the natural systems that give our lives deeper meaning.” Hwaaqw’um is now a sacred space for Joe’s Quw’utsun relatives to gather again and to engage with members of the Salt Spring community in a caring dialogue on “reconcili-action.” Salish Sea resident Rob Butler calls for a “renewal of our ancient relationship with nature”—one that has long been embedded in Indigenous ways but has largely been lost by settler populations. As a path toward that renewal, he pro…
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An introduction to First Nations' history in the Gulf Islands

The east coast of Vancouver Island is a rolling forested plain that narrows towards the south where the mountainous spine of the island edges towards the sea, and two rivers, the Cowichan and Chemainus, drain the ancient forests through valleys and fertile deltas. Offshore, a maze of smaller islands forms a seemingly impassable wall along the Gulf of Georgia - the inland sea which separates Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands from the distant mountains of the continental mainland.

A rain shadow cast by the Olympic Peninsula provides the east coast of Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands with a distinctive climate characterized by mild, wet winters and long, cool summers. With the stabilization of present sea-levels some 5,000 years ago, human beings began to efficiently and sustainably exploit the riches of land and sea abound. Wealth was available from the air to the ocean. In winter, ducks by the thousands flocked to wetlands and natu…

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Photos and Video: 2017 National Aboriginal Day at Xwaaqw'um

Local community and First Nations gathered this past weekend to celebrate National Aboriginal and Father's Day at Xwaaqw'um Beach (Burgoyne Bay). The family friendly cultural gathering was a celebration and learning about Coast Salish culture and traditions to nurture "Sound Relations" between settlers and First Nations peoples. The gathering included stories from the land, Tzinquaw Dancers from Cowichan, a community potluck with delicious, traditional salmon and moose stew, the Sisters of Mercy Choir and drumming and singing with the Unity Drummers & Singers from Victoria. The event was sponsored by the Xwaaqw'um Project Team, Sisters of Mercy Choir, Salt Spring Chamber of Commerce, Salt Spring Island Foundation, Community Fund for Canada’s 150th and Island Women Against Violence (IWAV).
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BC Ferries Unveils New Long Harbour Ferry Hull Wrap

Today at BC Ferries’ Richmond refit facility, the wrap adorning the hull of Salish Eagle was unveiled to Stz’uminus First Nation’s John Marston, who designed the artwork that was revealed last September. Coast Salish artist John Marston’s bold depiction of beautiful red eagles adorning the hull of the new vessel represents the strength and respect the eagle carries in First Nations culture. Marston’s work is strongly influenced by his ancestors and their masterpieces. Salish Eagle will enter service on the Tsawwassen – Southern Gulf Islands route at the end of June. The vessel recently completed a 10,440 nautical mile journey from Gdansk, Poland. It features two car decks and has a service speed of 15.5 knots, powered by three dual-fuel Wartsila 8L20DF engines.
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Videos and Photos: Xwaaqw’um (Burgoyne Bay) Welcome Pole Unveiling Ceremony

Four generations of Quw’utsun Tzinquaw Dancers danced the unveiling of the new Xwaaqw’um (Burgoyne Bay) Welcome Poles carved by local Cowichan Master Carver Harold Joe this past Saturday on Salt Spring Island. The ceremony attended by over 200 locals, family, friends and relatives of Hul'qumi'num community members was an unprecedented event in the recent colonial history of the island. Burgoyne Bay, whose traditional pre-settler name is Xwaaqw’um, was the site of indigenous long-houses, gatherings, hunting and ceremonial life long before colonial inhabitants began making home on the island. Revival of traditional culture, appreciation and reconciliation work is taking root on the island, as in other parts of Canada, and the Welcome Pole raising is the beginning of much planned work to care and respect for the historical past and present for traditional teachings and indigenous land stewardship. The Welcome Poles were unveiled and named with a traditional naming ceremony, dance,…
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Tsuhatluts, The Dangerous, Fierce, Powerful being of Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island is famous for many things— the Saturday market, the scenery, the cheese, the beer and a woman who tried to abduct children and eat them. Many years ago at the north end of the island there was a small village at P’q’unup (“white shell ground”) with a healthy population of young children. One summer day while they were playing on the beach a tall female stl’eluqum, (“dangerous, fierce, powerful being”) emerged from the water and strode toward them. “Tsuhatluts thu snes”, she shrieked “I am Tsuhatluts (Tzu-HAT-luts) of whom your mothers have spoken.” They all knew the history of Tsuhatlutz, who abducted the young, smeared their eyes with pitch and carried them away from their families to be cooked in her great earth oven in the woods. Until now she was only a story. The children were transfixed with fear at her sudden appearance. She easily picked them up one by one and, before placing them in her great basket, she dabbed pitch on their eyes to seal them shut.…
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Power and Lightning on the Mountain - The Indigenous Story of Mount Tuam

Dominating the southwest end of Salt Spring Island is Mount Tuam, another distinctive iconic island landscape and the only local placename to retain a semblance of the original SENCOTLEN and Hul’q’umi’num’ word—CUAN or Ts’uween (pronounced “ts – uWHlAN” approximately). The word is descriptive and refers to the steep terrain that seems to come straight down to the water’s edge. The current name Tuam is an English corruption of the original, and ancient, place-name. An earlier version of the word— Chuan—was applied to the whole island in 1852 after the Governor of the Colony of Vancouver Island, James Douglas, made his first trip by canoe from Victoria to Nanaimo. As he passed Swartz Bay and Salt Spring loomed in the distance, he asked his guide the name of the place. The guide, thinking Douglas was referring to Mount Tuam, gave him the indigenous name which Douglas transcribed as Chuan. He made a crude map of the trip and used the placename to refer to the entire island as Chuan…
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Snuw’uyulh and the Sansum Narrows Monster

An important part of snuw’uyulh (putting the thought in the child’s head/cultural teachings) is sxwi’em’ (“sh-why-m” approximately)— a great Hul’q’umi’num’/Sencotlen word that describes ancient times, places in the landscape, and narratives. The root of the word is “change” or “transformation” —the only constant thing in the universe. These stories are connected to landscapes that by their form reflect aspects of the story. The narratives associated with these places do not explain the landscapes— rather the landscapes explain the narratives. The stories are not a projection by people onto landscape but encode 4 millenia of intergenerational experience. There are variations of sxwi’em’ according to different families, but the fundamental structure of each narrative is the same. It is up to the listener to bring what they know already—prior knowledge of time and place —or a willingness to go there. Salt Spring Island has sxwi’em’ manifest in certain landscapes that serve as visi…
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Indigenous History of Salt Spring Island

In this series we will look at the Indigenous history of Salt Spring Island from the perspective of snuwuyulh (“snuh-WHY-ulth” approximately)—a Hul’q’umi’num’ word broadly translated as “cultural teachings.” The word has a literal meaning of “putting the thought into the child’s head”—a reference to a learning process that occurred from an early, indeed, prenatal stage of life to those born here. Early exposure to cultural teachings through stories and place-names produced knowledgeable people and a sustainable economy that persisted for thousands of years until the 19th century. Snuwuyulh reminds us that learning is an ongoing process and that everyone here is “like a child” when it comes to the human history of the island. Salt Spring Time offers some bare grounding in local “cultural teachings”—putting the thought in there— thanks to the many teachers past and present from Salt Spring Island, Saanich, Cowichan, Penelakut and Nanaimo. Salt Spring Now and Then Salt Sprin…
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Video: Kanaka-Salish Family of Isabella Point

Chris Arnett gives a talk at the Salt Spring Historical Society. He draws on many years of research and oral history. Archival photos and maps help illustrate local landmarks and significant historical events in the lives of Salt Spring's First Nations families, Hawaiian and European settlers. Video: Peter Prince / saltspringvideo
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Video: The Archeology of Shiya'hwt (Ganges)

Learn more about this town of 'Ganges' that we live in and around on Salt Spring Island. Archeologist Chris Arnett recalls the fascinating First Nations history of Ganges Village, known by the name of Shiya’hwt to its original inhabitants. For thousands of years Coast Salish people carried on their cultural traditions and harvested the areas abundant resources, until epidemics decimated their population and the coming of the Europeans changed their way of life forever. He shares his research, archival photos, artifacts, archeological studies and illustrations. He also interprets the evidence of burial sites around the Ganges and Grace Islet. .embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; }  
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Video: Grace Islet Benefit Concert

On Saturday Nov. 22 a special Benefit Concert and Silent Auction was held to help protect Grace Islet, the First Nations burial ground in Ganges Harbour that is being desecrated by construction of a private home. Opened with a traditional prayer by highly respected Elder Luschiim (Arvid Charlie) and a song by his nephew Louis Sylvester of Cowichan Tribes, it was an extraordinary evening, shared by about 200 people of all ages. Incredibly talented performers, including Bill Henderson the Barefoot Thieves, Duck Creak, Tara McLean, Daryl Chonka, Daniel Howlett, Chris Arnett, Naomi Jason, Vaughn Fulford, Peter Prince, Phil Vernon, Wesley Hardisty, Olivia Budd, Kryztina Unity, Yael Wand, Harry Warner and Friends, and the Gaia Soul Sistah’s Song Circle provided top-notch entertainment and an evening of magical energy that few of us will forget. Technical wizard Mark LeCorre did an amazing job on sound and lights, with help from Daryl Chonka, Gord Ross, Peter Prince and other…
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First Nations History of Shiya'hwt (Ganges Village)

Archeologist Chris Arnett recalls the fascinating First Nations history of Ganges Village, known by the name of Shiya'hwt to its original inhabitants. For thousands of years Coast Salish people carried on their cultural traditions and harvested the areas abundant resources, until epidemics decimated their population and the coming of the Europeans changed their way of life forever. He shares his research, archival photos, artifacts, archeological studies and illustrations. He also interprets the evidence of burial sites around the Ganges and Grace Islet. A presentation of the Salt Spring Island Historical Society. October 8th, 2014. Video and photos courtesy of Peter Prince from Salt Spring Video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zvJcKm0OIDQ
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