As an Aboriginal agency, we know that Aboriginal children and youth in care benefit substantially from being connected to their community and to their culture. It helps them to learn who they are, where they come from, and how to live a good life. Our culture not only strengthens us, it heals us.
Kw’umut Lelum has a lot to offer our children and youth to help them connect to their Coast Salish teachings and values. Our 4 Seasons Cultural Program offers weekly events that immerse them in traditional arts, language, drumming and food. And programs like Tribal Journey or Medicine of the Cedar encourage children and youth to connect with Elders, with their ancestors, and with each other.
But we wanted to do something that would reach all of our children in care – every one of them – in order to bring their culture to them.
In November and December, more than 100 beautiful cedar boxes are being delivered to children in care across our nine Member Nations. Each box has been filled with xe’xe’ syuxtse - knowledge, teachings and medicines that reflect and reinforce the cultural identity of our Smuneem’.
The box is made of cedar – X’pey – which is sacred to our people. The Elders teach us that cedar is alive and has its own life and spirit – a spirit that continues to live on in all of the things we make from it.
It contains medicines like Qux’miin (Wild Celery Seed), Stinging Nettle, Tumulh (ochre), Sage and Devil’s Club – revered for their protective and healing properties. The Devil’s club was even made into beads to be worn by the children for protection.
Each box also has age, gender and Nation-specific gifts according to the child they are going to. There are books, toys and other items that celebrate and honour their culture, as well as a Hul’q’umi’num primer that children and their families can use to learn language together.
When the boxes are presented, a KL staff member goes through all the treasures inside to help the children and caregivers understand the significance of each item, and to emphasize the teachings.
KL wishes to thank everyone who was involved in the making and collection of these items – in particular our incredible Cultural Permanency Team, and the members of our Nations who contributed their medicines and artistry. Huy ch q’a siem.
Photo by Tricia Thomas