Included are reflections on the value of the ṮEṮÁĆES Climate Action Project by some of the W̱SÁNEĆ elders who participated in the project.
First of all I’d like to thank the working group for the invitation to the ṮEṮÁĆES climate action courses and what was happening at Poets Cove and the land there, the SWÁLET reef net site. I think it’s important for the people that live on the ṮEṮÁĆES to be able to understand our W̱SÁNEĆ people’s view of those sacred spaces. Those places were all gifts because we were asked as a people to look after those islands and those islands would look after us. We have to maintain that connection. I saw that as a continuation of that connection of getting together to speak to that group, that we could talk a little bit about our relatives and families over there. We have a responsibility to those places. It’s an important part for people on those islands to know. That they understand we have a sacred responsibility to continue that on through our laws and beliefs. I saw that in the courses, that gave us space to share those things with the young people coming up and that will become the future leaders and hopefully have a positive relationship with the W̱SÁNEĆ people that will be there for a very long time.
And I want to thank those who were responsible to help create those spaces for us to share.
I remember the blanket ceremony was really powerful and gave a clear history of what has been done to our people, not just here on our islands but all across Canada. I really appreciated being a part of that.
First off I’d like to thank the working group for putting together these courses and for helping to educate the young people who are coming up about our traditional beliefs and ways about land and sea. These things gave us a way to live in this territory and left instructions for us on how to be. Up until these offerings brought it up for us all, we didn’t have an avenue to voice what we’ve been given and what we know about this land. The sacred way that our forefathers lived on this land is the reason why the land was so perfect and pristine when the first WELENITEM arrived here. It was because we were instructed to live a certain way on this land. It wasn’t because there wasn’t very many of us. There were many many of us. We covered this land. And this is what I believe, what the traditional ways of looking after this earth and interacting with our relatives, the ones that the great spirit put here, is what other nations need to learn about the earth. And I think it’s probably the same wherever you go, the indigenous people of those lands are most likely the ones who know how to look after the land. For example, the way we take only what we need and not taking more. I think this is a monumental teaching for all that live here because we don’t need to just take. Each day of our lives the creator provides for us and that’s what we need to know. That’s what we need to change, is the way people think, how they’re interacting with Mother Earth and our relatives, the trees, birds, animals of the ocean, the islands themselves, they’re all our relatives. If we take a life, we have a way of speaking to those relatives. We have certain words and prayers. I think that’s what was really great about what the ṮEṮÁĆES project did was open up the ways we could share with other people who have come to live in our land. We learn to respect and honour each other. So thank you to all the people who helped put this all together and to provide an avenue to speak from our mind, our ways even though it was just a little bit. I thank you all for taking an interest in hearing about this land in a way we do.
We’ve had such positive feedback about what we have been doing in the ṮEṮÁĆES project. It’s a wonderful thing for others to hear us speak about our traditional ways with our Mother Earth. I think it works both ways. We offer our traditional ways to the non-First Nations about how we lived. It’s the way we are told to live from when we are in our mother’s womb and all the way through our lives. We hear it over and over again from our Elders until we enter the spirit world, how to look after all the relatives around us. They are considered our relatives. It’s the highest form of our being, our relationship to our homeland. I think people on our lands are really hungry for those ways, to keep our green spaces and not on greed, and we learn from the climate scientists about what they know. We need more climate scientists in our communities. This information is so important for our young boys and girls about climate change, and solar power, our native plants. We’re sharing information with them and so it’s important that we share equally. We only take what we need. That was my late moms favourite saying. We only take what we need. We don’t deplete it. These are the kinds of things that are instilled in us forever. It’s been a teaching for generations from our creator. Having interest from non-First Nations people, I appreciate that. I just wish it was sooner. And I hope that together we can help our Mother Earth be who she is again.
I’d really like to thank all the people who helped put together the ṮEṮÁĆES program. I think it’s a really great initiative. Right from the get-go, the concept really excited me because it seemed like something so meaningful for all people in our region here in W̱SÁNEĆ. The hope was that we could be noticed by others who are working towards climate action. I think it could put us in alliance with the broader community and that movement starts to shift. I really loved the concept that traditional W̱SÁNEĆ laws are climate action. How our people have looked at our relationship with our land, I like to think it is all contained in our language, contained in our stories and it’s contained in that outlook, that we are directed to look upon the land and the different species that live amongst us. It all comes back around to not being so indifferent to them, that there’s something that’s beneath us. It’s always been our way that we look at the world around us as a relative to us, we are a relative to it. To me that’s the biggest thing. That we get to reignite ourselves in that context. We might have different ways of understanding, and I think there’s an undertone that people can understand that in principle, they can perceive that concept, that context. The fact that we acknowledge all the things around us as relatives. They’re still relatives to us. These places have names in our language that tell us why we go there, for medicines or things to harvest there for example. These places, these names they provide instructions, directions, and that in itself also instills that we are relatives, that something might have happened there, that’s our history. Other places teach us, you can’t go there without an understanding, they all tell us something. We’re always tied to that connection by the language. So, I really feel grateful for the language and the teachings that explain the harmonious, the wholistic relationship and being able to always have that connection. So that’s the whole thing in a nutshell, that W̱SÁNEĆ traditional laws are climate action because once you engage the language, once you hear the stories, you have to tell the stories yourself, and you have the interactions with the people around you. Once you visit those places, life continues to go on, but with all those things. That’s when the responsibility begins to build up. So this is the dichotomy we live. Our contemporary society exists for better and for worse, but once you understand all the teachings, acknowledging that cultural outlook, it’s a sacred thing, and to be affected by that sacredness is a life changing experience.