The WLC is proud to have secured funding under the Nation Rebuilding Program, with the aim to unite the W̱SÁNEĆ people once again.
Since the onset of colonialism, the W̱SÁNEĆ Nation has been actively divided: first by the creation of reserves and the promotion of agriculture; next by the imposition of the border between the US and Canada; and finally by the dispossession of W̱SÁNEĆ territory and the criminalization of W̱SÁNEĆ harvesting methods*.
This division of the W̱SÁNEĆ Nation has caused severe fracturing of families, identities, and the W̱SÁNEĆ relationship to the land and water. W̱SÁNEĆ ancestors and elders have always resisted and fought for a united W̱SÁNEĆ Nation, as outlined in the January 8th 1987 Saanich Indian Territorial Declaration.
The W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council’s mandate is to promote respect for W̱SÁNEĆ culture, traditional practices, language, and Douglas Treaty rights. To continue the legacy established by W̱SÁNEĆ ancestors and elders, the WLC will be launching five unity initiatives throughout W̱SÁNEĆ territory. Each of these five projects will help the WLC achieve their mandate.
Unity Project #1: Tribal Journeys.
An annual event, Tribal Journeys is a revival of the traditional method of transportation, interaction, and trade with other Nations.
A significant cultural experience for all who participate, Tribal Journeys started in 1989. Originally called the “Paddle to Seattle,” the event was created to gather Coast Salish people to witness the Centennial Accord, an agreement recognizing Indigenous sovereignty signed by Washington State and the region’s Indigenous Nations.
Since 1989, more than 100 Indigenous Nations, from as far south as California and as far north as Alaska, have participated in the annual event. While the physical journey itself is significant—in some cases taking up to a month—it is only part of the cultural experience. Visitors and Hosts partake in traditional protocol ceremonies, and the sharing of songs, dances and gifts that last for days.
Tribal Journeys provides an opportunity for families of many Nations to celebrate life and come together once again, to share their traditional ways with their children and grandchildren, and work in solidarity to preserve and improve the deteriorating health of the waters.
The WLC plans to promote initiative to W̱SÁNEĆ involvement in Tribal Journeys through a number of interrelated initiatives: the W̱SÁNEĆ Drum Group, the creation of W̱SÁNEĆ regalia, and the Travelling Together program, which will result in the creation of four cedar canoes, one for each village.
Unity Project #2: Tea House
In the past, relatives of all ages would gather with their extended family over tea to discuss items of concern within the community, tell stories and visit with each other. Over time, this practice has waned. As a result, many W̱SÁNEĆ youths don’t have an adequate understanding of SENĆOŦEN or W̱SÁNEĆ culture to pass on to their children.
In response, the WLC will be coordinating a bimonthly, travelling SENĆOŦEN Language Tea House Series. Key knowledge holders and language experts will present the Tea House series and teach attendees both SENĆOŦEN phrases and W̱SÁNEĆ history.
The Tea House events will be casual and social and feature historically appropriate storytelling, language instruction and light entertainment. Tea House Series’ first stop will be at Stelly’s High School, First Nation’s Cultural program, this November.
The WLC is currently looking for four volunteers to participate.
Unity Project #3: Natural Laws
The teachings and practices of the W̱SÁNEĆ Nation are passed on in W̱SÁNEĆ homes by individual families, through the SENĆOŦEN immersion program, by elders who have written books, and with other grass-roots initiatives put together by strong W̱SÁNEĆ community leaders.
The WLC is further promoting these efforts by launching projects like the Tea House ceremonies and the Fur to Forest Project. In addition, the WLC has engaged a member of the community specifically to capture Natural Laws. This critical initiative will begin with interviewing elders and recording W̱SÁNEĆ oral histories and stories. Of particular importance is capturing the story of the birthplace of W̱SÁNEĆ, also known as the flood story.
The first step is collecting the many versions of the story. Next in the process is incorporating the nuance and subtleties of the differing versions into one. Then, the story will be submitted in English to the language council for review, translation into SENĆOŦEN and approved. The end result will be an agreed upon final SENĆOŦEN, long and short version of the story as well as another version in English. Upon completion, the WLC will share this valuable cultural legacy with the W̱SÁNEĆ community, the youth and on signage across the territory.
“We are putting back together our world visions so we can move forward with a more united front. We’re still here and we’re growing beyond surviving into thriving. This place is taking care of us. We’re under no illusion we’re taking care of the place.” said Philip Kevin Paul, who is working on this project.
Unity Project #4: W̱SÁNEĆ Art
The fourth unity project aims to create and install W̱SÁNEĆ art across W̱SÁNEĆ territory.
Off to a promising start, the formation of the W̱SÁNEĆ Arts Committee consists of master artists that contribute their wisdom and knowledge of arts and history. There is a master artist representing each village
The first project was the recommendation and acceptance of the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council logo, the Spindle Whorl Concept. Next, Elders and the W̱SÁNEĆ Arts Committee are planning a prominent art installation within the territory.
Unity Project #5: Reef Net Fishing
It is a belief of the W̱SÁNEĆ people that the reef net and reef net fishing came directly from the Salmon spirit.
Made from the inner bark of the willow bush, the reef net is referred to as the SX̱OLE or Princess of the Tides. Reef net fishing is a method of fishing unique to the Straits Salish and W̱SÁNEĆ nations.
Because it was outlawed in the 1920’s and 1930’s by colonial forces, reclaiming traditional reef net fishing technology and practices is a landmark step towards restoring the legacy, history and cultural practices of the W̱SÁNEĆ people.
The construction of reef nets and use of reef nets for fishing will be taught, along with the story of the SX̱OLE, this spring. The WLC will be getting help from our Lummi relatives to teach this technology and construct the reef nets.
We will also be looking for volunteers for this program.
Each unity project will present multiple opportunities for involvement with the greater W̱SÁNEĆ community. From volunteering, to knowledge and skill transfer, to attendance of the various events and initiatives, the WLC will be releasing more information as new developments and programs under these projects become available.
News and events are shared on our website and social media. To stay up to date on this story, please subscribe to our newsletter
*Please note, the WLC currently represents the Tsawout, Tsartlip Tseycum First Nation, we respect the Pauquachin First Nation’s decision to decline membership in the WLC, and we hope they will join our initiatives in the future.
Each unity project will present multiple opportunities for involvement with the greater W̱SÁNEĆ community.
From volunteering, to knowledge and skill transfer, to attendance of the various events and initiatives, the WLC will be releasing more information as new developments and programs under these projects become available.