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“This ÁLEṈENEȻ (homeland) image references a story of the creation of our home- lands here in W̱SÁNEĆ. In the story, we say that the creator made our homelands, the islands (ṮEṮÁĆES) and high mountains from stones he casted. The stones however, were actually people who emanated good qualities that the creator believed we should all have. The creator told the islands as he cast them outward, “take care of your rela- tives.” In the image, the creator speaks to one of the islands before he casts them out, while the human form appears in a stone that is suspended in mid air and an island emerges from the water opposite the creator.”

by artist David Underwood — PENÁĆ

The braided cedar rope by artist Willow Hopkins represents the braiding of Indigenous Traditional Knowledge with current climate science to inform the EÁĆES Climate Ac- tion Project.  The braid is a gift from MLA Adam Olsen in support of the project.

The EÁĆES Climate Action Project is inspired and guided by the EÁĆES creation story.

Elder Earl Claxton Jr. and Madelin Emery collecting stones for pit cook. Photo by P. Petrie.

“ṮEṮÁĆES is the W̱SÁNEĆ name for island, or islands. Roughly translated, it means relatives of the deep, which refers to the story of how the islands got to be. It is said that long ago XÁLS (the creator) came to W̱ SÁNEĆ to change many things about the world. He came to the territory aboard a canoe at the area known to W̱SÁNEĆ as ȾIX̱EṈ – the Cordova Spit at Saanichton Bay. XÁLS came ashore. He then walked to- ward the westside of the point, where he cast a black stone into the horizon, fol- lowed by another black stone, which became ȽÁUWELṈEW̱ (John Dean park, Mt. New- ton). XÁLS had with him a basket, that he loaded with more black stones and then walked toward ȽÁUWELṈEW̱ . Several people had witnessed the sacred spectacle and in their curiosity followed XÁLS to the mountain. Atop the mountain XÁLS proceeded to cast more black stones, which then made the mountains. When he ran out of stones he turned toward the people who had followed him to the mountain and began to grab people who were of the greatest virtue. He cast them out into the ocean and told each of them, “QEN,T TŦEN SĆÁLEĆE” (look after your relatives). They then rooted themselves deep into the ocean, becoming the islands. He was done casting people to the water and turned to those who had remained with him on the mountain and told them, “I, QEN,T SE SW̱ TŦEN SĆÁLEĆE” (And you will look after your rela- tives)”, and gestured to the ṮEṮÁĆES.”

As told by PENÁĆ July 2019

The Islands, our relatives, have provided a way of life for our people for thousands of years and W̱SÁNEĆ law creates a reciprocal relationship of care between W̱SÁNEĆ and ṮEṮÁĆES. — “This responsibility is absolute; we are obligated to care for these is- lands, not only through our own actions but by protecting the islands against harmful actions by others.” *

Dr. Nick Claxton, Tsawout Chief

* *see Robert YELḰÁTŦE Clifford, “Saanich Law and the Trans Mountain Pipeline Ex-pansion”; Environmental Challenges on Indigenous Land: July 2019

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