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Communities gather for Medicine of the Cedar

On a scorching hot day at the end of August, Kw’umut Lelum brought together elders, community leaders, children and youth to launch an amazing new program.

Slhexun’s tthu Xpey’ (Medicine of the Cedar) is a youth leadership development project rooted in Coast Salish teachings and traditions and focused on the creation and journey of a cedar canoe for Kwumut Lelum’s Tribal Journeys ahead.

Over the next year, KL youth, led by their elders, and with the expertise of renowned Coast Salish artist Luke Marston will carve a traditional ocean-going canoe from a cedar log. Says Bill Yoachim “They will have a chance to be connected to their roots; to their Snuw’uy’ulh”. There are so many teachings to share along the journey towards making this canoe. And today marked the first of many.

Hosted by Chief John Elliott on Stz’uminus territory, we came together to help bless the mighty cedar log for its transformation and gift.

Dan Norris, KL Board member and Halalt Nation councillor reminded the attendees of all the gifts the cedar gives us. From its beauty, to its bark which is used for medicine, regalia and even diapers, to its wood from which we carve tools, art and of course, our canoes.

Luke Marston is a carver whose works have been displayed in Thunderbird Park in Victoria; he also created a medicine box that travelled across Canada with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He will be helping the group to coax the canoe out of the cedar. Luke reminded us that it is sacred medicine to use a tree like this. “The tree when it falls doesn’t die – it has a living soul. You must treat it kindly – you don’t just hit it with tools. These are the teachings I learned from my elders.” He is looking forward to passing along those teachings to the KL youth.

The canoe, once it is finished, will be used by KL’s canoe family to travel the ocean as part of the annual Tribal Journey: one of many programs that help children and youth in care connect with each other and with their culture. For many of these children, this is the first time they are able to feel pride in who they are and where they come from. Says Josephine Underhay, who was herself a child in care: “Tribal reminded me that my culture is beautiful and strong and one of the things that got me this far in life”.

Kw’umut Lelum raises their hands to the witnesses, attendees, our 9 member Nations, Board and of course, our children, who came together to make this event (and this new program) a success!

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