FOR RELEASE ON JULY 24th 2023
| W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council
W̱SÁNEĆ bless new land-based whale watching trail on ṮEḴTEḴSEN (Saturna Island)
Opening ceremony honoured W̱SÁNEĆ sacred responsibility to the relatives of the deep
Saturna Island, BC – W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council (WLC), Tsawout First Nation, and Gulf Islands National Park Reserve (GINPR) are pleased to announce the opening of a new land-based whale-viewing trail at ṮEḴTEḴSEN (pronounced tek-tek-sin, East Point on Saturna Island). The trail is called ḰENES SOȽ (pronounced kwun-us-saw-lh).
The new trail – which officially opened on June 22, 2023 – supports community members to safely take in the beauty of KELȽOLEMEĆEN (Killer Whales) and other whales in a way that is less disruptive to the whales than watching on the water. This important collaboration between the WLC, Tsawout and GINPR has been in progress for over a year and aims to reduce negative impacts on the endangered whales.
ḰENES SOȽ, at ṮEḴTEḴSEN, is a place where settlers and W̱SÁNEĆ community members alike can honour the sacred relationship between the W̱SÁNEĆ and the KELȽOLEMEĆEN through three pieces featured by W̱SÁNEĆ artists.
There are two elaborately carved cedarwood benches by renowned W̱SÁNEĆ artist Bear Horne. Near the benches stands an audio box that is decorated by W̱SÁNEĆ artist Iswalh Peters. When visitors turn the crank of the audio box, a prayer written by knowledge holder Tiffany Joseph plays in English, French, and SENĆOŦEN.
On June 22nd, W̱SÁNEĆ community leaders gathered for an opening ceremony to honor ḰENES SOȽ. While Parks Canada and a representative from Saturna Island spoke briefly, the event centered around sharing by W̱SÁNEĆ knowledge holder Tiffany Joseph. Indigenous and settler community members alike – including Saturna Island residents – sat attentively as Joseph recited the prayer she wrote to bless ḰENES SOȽ.
Joseph was honored to be asked to write the prayer for this occasion, as it is an exercise in W̱SÁNEĆ peoples’ sacred responsibility to the KELȽOLEMEĆEN. “We as W̱SÁNEĆ have family ties to the killer whales, and especially the southern resident killer whales,” Joseph notes. “We have a great responsibility to them because of that family bond that we have, so I was really honored to be asked.”
In writing the prayer, Joseph tapped into “all those emotions of love and excitement and beauty” experienced while watching KELȽOLEMEĆEN, and also spoke to the W̱SÁNEĆ teaching to be good parents and listen to your elders.
After the prayer, the participants enjoyed food blessed by one of the Elders, who shared, “I’m just so grateful for this beautiful day and all the beauty that the Creator provided for us to be able to experience today.”
Kate Humble, Superintendent of Gulf Islands National Parks Reserve, shared:
“The process of co-developing the ḰENES SOȽ at ṮEḴTEḴSEN has been extremely rewarding, and the opening ceremony on June 22nd was the culmination of several years of shared effort. It was a great joy to witness a ceremony supported by Parks Canada, attended by representatives from across the Saturna Island community, and led by W̱SÁNEĆ people, which celebrated W̱SÁNEĆ culture and ongoing caretaking of the lands and waters through the lens of the two gifted artists and the knowledge holder whose work and SENĆOŦEN words now live in that place for all visitors to see and hear.”
ḰENES SOȽ is part of a large network of on-land whale-viewing trails that extend to the west coast, connecting several First Nations. This network of trails traces the path whales who come through deep-trench waters follow as a feeding ground.
ḰENES SOȽ is just one of many W̱SÁNEĆ projects to protect KELȽOLEMEĆEN. See the W̱SÁNEĆ Marine Guardians for more.
- The W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council represents the communities of Tsartlip and Tseycum First Nations, with a mandate to promote the interests of the W̱SÁNEĆ Nation.
- W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council, Tsawout, and Gulf Islands National Park Reserve opened a new land-based whale-viewing trail called ḰENES SOȽ at ṮEḴTEḴSEN (pronounced tek-tek-sin, East Point).
- The viewing point at the trail features important W̱SÁNEĆ cultural elements, including an audio box that plays a prayer and art by W̱SÁNEĆ artists.
- The trail is an on-land viewing area, providing an opportunity to watch KELȽOLEMEĆEN (South Island Resident Killer Whales) that is less disruptive than on-water watching and honors the W̱SÁNEĆ community’s responsibility to the KELȽOLEMEĆEN.
- The KELȽOLEMEĆEN (South Island Resident Killer Whales) are identified as Endangered under the Species at Risk Act.
- Parks Canada collaborates with Indigenous governments, communities, and organizations in various on-the-ground conservation activities, such as species recovery and habitat restoration, guided by Indigenous knowledge.
- Parks Canada works actively with partners to monitor and restore marine ecosystems and protect at-risk species like Southern Resident Killer Whales. The Whale Trail at ṮEḴTEḴSEN (pronounced tek-tek-sin, East Point) on Saturna Island is an example of an initiative that promotes shore-based marine mammal watching – a less disruptive way to watch whales.
Learn more about the WLC: https://wsanec.com/
Chief Don Tom
Chair, W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council Chief,
Tsartlip First Nation
Cell (250) 813-3315
Pronouns: She/Her | Pronom: Elle
Public Relations and Communications Officer, Coastal B.C. Field Unit
Parks Canada / Government of Canada
23433 Mavis Avenue, PO Box 129, Fort Langley, BC V1M 2R5
Nancy.Hildebrand@pc.gc.ca | Phone: 604-961-6787