The picnic pavilion at Bowen Park in Nanaimo was ringing with the sounds of children’s laughter, drums, and voices raised in song as our family celebrated the achievement of cultural milestones.
Close to 50 people gathered on May 25th to share a meal and to showcase and share in the successes of our children. More specifically, their mastery, independence, generosity and sense of belonging, to themselves, their families and their ancestors.
For those children, youth and families who have been participating in our 4 Seasons cultural programming, the past months have led them on a cultural journey that has brought our travelers closer to themselves and the world they are a part of. They have been able to explore and immerse themselves in many different forms of Coast Salish culture. But it is about so much more than learning a craft or song or word.
From singing, drumming and dancing which is the strongest form of engagement between their minds, hearts and spirits, to speaking their ancestral dialogue hul’q’umi’num’ which puts all the puzzle pieces of their culture together, we are able to better forge meaningful connections to each other and to a way of life that has existed since the beginning of time.
We have learned to make moccasins, dream catchers, paddles, and drums; we have been taught to harvest cedar, carve a canoe, sing a solo, weave wool and gather our slhexun (medicine) - all of which lay down sacred values and philosophies, but also give us an opportunity to learn traditional practices from teachers who have dedicated a lifetime of learning, and who so willingly shared with our children. We raise our hands to these teachers and knowledge keepers.
Lawrence Mitchell, our Cultural Co-ordinator, tells us, “By nurturing and cultivating our children’s s’huli we are learning together how to walk in two worlds, and ways to bring our circle into balance when the modern world is just too much.”
The Cultural Milestones celebration let us gather together to celebrate our culture, and to honour the amazing work accomplished by our children and youth. The smiles and laughter in the air nourished our
food with uy shqwalawun and brought us together in a harmony only our culture could provide. Added Lawrence: “This form of gathering has taken place for generations, our people come together and become one; in doing so they strengthen their bonds and give each other the strength to carry on knowing they are doing their best and living a good life.”
Photos by Tricia Thomas