I'm on my last day of a writing/land relationship building trip on xʷənen̕əč (Salt Spring Island). I've never been to any of the Gulf Islands before and this has been quite a revolutionary exploration.
Originally this trip was to just take some time to do some deep work, some deliberate reflection and a treat to celebrate, I haven't really taken the time to do that because life's been just coming and I wanted to create some space in my life to breathe.
I've been spending a lot of my days eating well, doing yoga and mediation, going for some forrest baths, doing some beach combing and having fires every evening playing cards and sometimes weaving. A lot of the practice has been with breathe bringing myself to the here and now in the present moment.
I find that when I'm coming off a project I'm being asked to focus a lot on the future or the past and I recently recognized that I was making post-show creative decisions from that place for future projects and it wasn't feeling good.
I feel super peaceful at the moment - connected to myself again and for the first time in in a long while, like my spirit is nourished and saying with energy - I'm here with you.
I'm also here working on my relationship with the Salish Sea, I was once told that you have to earn your relationship with the Ocean. She's one to learn from, bear witness to and engage with but like with any entity we are in relation to, we've got to greet and respect one another, so I've been doing that.
Putting my hands and feet in her and introducing myself, listening to her and watching her moves and power - I feel for the first time in my life, I've properly introduced myself to her and she's greeted me back and it feels congruous. I have given her the time to be in awe of her magnitude and I'm starting to really get connected to her.
In following this relational investigation with the Salish Sea, I wanted to understand how my Ancestors might've connected here, gone on a similar journey, utilized these waterways and engaged with the land here and with the help of a generous friend whose studying the Fraser and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm speaking areas, I've found out some pretty spectacular information.
Before this trip, I've heard stories of some up main island Indigenous nations, a long time ago, taking canoes across to the interior Salish Tsilhqot'in area, being guided by Orca's. That our people intermixed. So there is a blood connection to the Island Nations as well as a journey story, that information, those lineages and stories of passage make me feel at peace knowing that my people travelled and traded here.
My Syilx Ancestors did a lot of travel as leaders, to England, France and places as far as Rome but what I was more unfamiliar with before this relation based exploration, was how we travelled the Fraser and came here to xʷənen̕əč.
xʷənen̕əč has been occupied by Indigenous peoples of this region for at least 5,000 years, those are stories told by the people here and for a good dose of academic authority, carbon dating also proves that. This place was abundant with food, like Snauq (False Creek) this place was known to be what we would now understand as a market place. They have clam beds here that are thousands of years old, mussels, oysters, and what attracted a lot of the neighbouring Nations was the channel of sockeye coming from the Fraser river.
I hate calling it the "Fraser River" so here's something I found on wikipedia.
"The river's name in the Halqemeylem (Upriver Halkomelem) language is Sto:lo, often seen archaically as Staulo, and has been adopted by the Halkomelem-speaking peoples of the Lower Mainland as their collective name, Sto:lo. The river's name in the Dakelh language is Lhtakoh. The Tsilhqot'in name for the river, not dissimilar to the Dakelh name, is ʔElhdaqox, meaning Sturgeon (ʔElhda-chugh) River (Yeqox)."
Now I'm Tshilqot'in, Syilx, Ktunaxa and Dakelh so maybe I should start calling it ʔElhdaqox. I think though, that because I'm a guest on the Coast Salish I should be calling it the Staulo. If any people of this territory have knowledge or protocol around this, or different names for it, please, please email me but I will continue to do the work to educate myself and be as respectful guest as I can.
The Staulo river has so much spherical meaning to so many Indigenous Nations that it runs through. We shared it, it was a mode of travel, brought food, held ceremony and it channelled through me. Which brings me back to xʷənen̕əč, where I've been for a week.
This place was not only a plentiful food source, like any good market it was a place of trade and people have found jade here, rock tools from the interior and many other pieces of trade that confirms my people traveled and traded here, as well as many Nations far from here.
This was also a place of ceremony, there is something energetic about this place that I can feel in my body and knowledge holders that can account for this. It feels like a power point, similar to what Banff feels like. Banff has been a place of meeting and ceremony for thousands of years. My Ktunaxa people lived in the area and my other Nations as well as many others travelled there because it was this incredible journey that sort of equalized the Nations because they all had to journey to the mountains to this portal.
xʷənen̕əč, has similar stories of energy, meetings, stories of young people coming here and participating in intense ceremony. The land always speaks and here it is saying many things that I can feel. I'm so grateful for all the energy and peace that it is providing.
We've encountered so many birds on this trip, geese, ducks, heron's, eagles, swans, robins, chickadees and ravens - birds are a big sign of transformation, freedom and evolution and I'm grateful for their presence on this trip. I'm still taking in all their teachings.
I think the rest of the transformations and nourishment that's been occurring here, is just for me but I encourage all of you to investigate your relationships with the places your body and spirit occupy. There is so much work to be done, so much knowledge to bear, and relational investigations to be done by each of us.
I've had a swell time channelling the waters, observing the movement and sounds of the land and I'm grateful that this land continues to tell stories and connect me to my people and Ancestors.
kw'as ho:y xʷənen̕əč for all that you've illuminated and surged for me.
From my Ancestors, who once came to this land, to yours throughout time,
With great Indigenous love,