On Sunday, May 20th, our Stz’uminus member Nation welcomed 25 children, youth and adults to their beautiful forests to learn how to harvest cedar.
An initiative of the 4 Seasons Cultural Program, this gathering was organized to both offer traditional knowledge and to build a positive sense of identity among our Indigenous children.
We all met up the mountain in Stz’uminus territory where our Cultural Worker, Lawrence Mitchell, and our facilitator, Kristin Thomas, started off by sharing some teachings on the sacred nature of what we were there to do.
After making sure everyone understood safety precautions when handling sharp objects, we strolled further into the forest (a cut block, actually) where our hosts demonstrated the proper technique of how to gather bark from the cedar. Using machetes, small hatchets and carving knives, each child worked (independently or under adult supervision to carefully remove long strips of bark from the trees. It is important to remember to only take what the cedar is willing to offer – and to recognize that it is a sacred gift. We told stories of cedar trees while we worked.
It is remarkable to see the changes in the children who are not often given an opportunity to be themselves or to explore their cultural identity. Their sense of accomplishment and pride shone clearly in their eyes and their smiles.
Says Lawrence, “We each have a spirit inside us, and within that fabric of life we are born into; our spirit yearns to exercise our relationship with the environment, and become one with the world around us. By taking on this task of being in the bush, harvesting cedar, and learning to strip the outer bark off it truly fed their spirit, because our culture provides sustenance and refills our cup.”
The bark is being left to cure until next spring, when it will be used to make woven bracelets, hats, grad caps, roses and other traditional art.
It was a glorious day to learn something new, to create a sense of belonging, to lift up our children and our spirits and to be immersed in an important aspect of Coast Salish culture.
Photos by Tricia Thomas