As part of our mandate, the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council regularly features W̱SÁNEĆ community members who work to enhance recognition and respect for W̱SÁNEĆ culture.
ŚW̱,XELOSELWET (Tiffany Joseph)–meaning “Camera Lady” in SENĆOŦEN–is a trained filmmaker, an experienced environmental steward and advocate, a SENĆOŦEN language learner, a writer, a teacher, and an astrologer. The history of W̱SÁNEĆ people’s self-advocacy has inspired her to learn and practice the W̱SÁNEĆ ways of life her elders and ancestors fought for her, while also doing whatever she can to provide those same opportunities to her children and future W̱SÁNEĆ generations.
ŚW̱,XELOSELWET was given her SENĆOŦEN name by her SENĆOŦEN teachers in 2015. PENÁĆ (her ŚIEȽ, “older cousin”) and J,SIṈTEN (her SÁĆS, “uncle”) recognized how she always carried her cameras around while she was in the W̱,SENĆOŦEN IST language revitalization program. At a young age, ŚW̱,XELOSELWET decided she wanted to become trained in filmmaking to help capture W̱SÁNEĆ knowledge, history, and stories that W̱SÁNEĆ people wanted to preserve.
“I recognized how important TV and movies would be in making language and stories accessible to everyone, and also understood that the best way to ensure our stories were told in appropriate ways was if the directors, producers, and crew were our own people.”
To pursue this vision, ŚW̱,XELOSELWET went to Gulf Islands Film and Television School on Galiano Island and then took the Indigenous Independent Digital Filmmaking Program at Capilano University. While juggling raising her children, ŚW̱,XELOSELWET completed a short film about the totem pole carved by Bearcat Sam and Archie Andrew for the Saanich Adult Education Centre. In fact, most of her film work has been with or for the W̱SÁNEĆ community including MEQs LÁ,TEṈ ȽTE (“Everything We Have Prepared”) a film about the ȽAU,WELṈEW̱ Tribal School where she mentored W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership School students in filmmaking.
While filmmaking has been, and continues to be, a meaningful pursuit, ŚW̱,XELOSELWET has explored many other interests throughout her career. In 2014, she participated in the “Growing Our Futures” program in SȾÁUTW̱. “It felt like I connected with a huge part of my family I never met before. It wasn’t just my human relatives, but my plant relatives too! Every year of my life I connect deeper with W̱SÁNEĆ through connecting with the plants, language, territory, and the people, and I’m so grateful this opportunity everyday.”
(Shown above, a photo of a home garden installation in the works. Photo from the ŚW̱,ȻENEṈITEL, the Indigenous Foods Initiative website)
Today, ŚW̱,XELOSELWET channels much of her plant knowledge through her work as Indigenous Food Systems Animator in the ŚW̱,ȻENEṈITEL Indigenous Foods Initiative, and her passion for Indigenous plants has led her to become a certified pollinator steward.
With every one of ŚW̱,XELOSELWET’s passions, the common thread is that she wishes to share everything she learns with the W̱SÁNEĆ people and ÁLEṈENEȻ (territory). “Our elders and teachers fought and advocated for everything we have today: our language, our teachings, the wellbeing of our territory, and our birthrights to follow the teachings of XÁLS. I just want to do my part to continue on that good work.”
How are we doing?
“By helping first-time gardeners get out in the dirt and figure it out, they’re able to participate in “making mistakes,” where they’re not perfect, not the best off-the-bat. There’s a leftover from residential schools where making mistakes meant punishment. We are learning and teaching compassion for self and earth.”