Last summer, The W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council’s youth advisory committee organized a day of learning on the land at QENEṈ,IW̱.

Under the guidance of Elders Eric W̱IĆKINEM Pelkey and Belinda SELILIYE Claxton, and sponsored by the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council, 16 youth and 3 Elders met at QENEṈ,IW̱ (Hay Point reserve land) on S,DÁYES (South Pender).

The W̱SÁNEĆ Youth day at QENEṈ,IW̱ was an extension of the ṮEṮÁĆES Climate Action Project which combines current climate science with Traditional Knowledge of the W̱SÁNEĆ people to inform and support decision-making on land use and climate action at both the local and regional levels. 

Shown above, ṮEṮÁĆES Climate Action Project logo.

“This ÁLEṈENEȻ (homeland) image references a story of the creation of our homelands 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 relatives.” 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

One of the key goals of the ṮEṮÁĆES Climate Action Project was to connect W̱SÁNEĆ with their ÁLEṈENEȻ – traditional homeland – a connection that had been severed by the impacts of colonization. This community initiative was made possible due to hard work of the youth as well as the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council, the W̱SÁNEĆ School Board and Southern Gulf Islands Community Resources Centre with funding from the CRD and the Real Estate Foundation of BC. 

In total, sixteen W̱SÁNEĆ youth participated in the day to heal the land by clearing invasive daphne and shared the teachings of the Elders, including stories of a ṮEṮÁĆES and QENEṈ,IW̱ as told by David PENÁĆ Underwood and Elder Earl XEṮXÁṮTEN Claxton Jr. respectively. The youth also participated in a traditional salmon pit BBQ under the guidance of Elder Earl XEṮXÁṮTEN Claxton Jr.  

The stories of ṮEṮÁĆES and QENEṈ,IW̱ are shared below:

The ṮEṮÁĆES creation story of the Islands as told by David PENÁĆ Underwood:

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 W̱SÁNEĆ 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 toward the westside of the point, where he cast a black stone into the horizon, followed by another black stone, which became ȽÁUWELṈEW̱ (John Dean park, Mt. Newton). 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 relatives)”, and gestured to the ṮEṮÁĆES.  

The story of QENEṈ,IW̱ was also told by Eric W̱IĆKINEM Pelkey.

My Hereditary name is W̱IĆKINEM .

I am the Great Grandson of Hereditary Chief Louie Pelkey, X̱ETJIMELT, son of

SXEDQELÁNEW̱

I possess the Chief’s cape known as the SX̱EX̱WES that was passed to my father Gabe Pelkey , IYÍEKTEN, by X̱ETJIMELT.

The Chief’s Cape, the SX̱EX̱WES was placed upon me at a gathering of the W̱ILNEW̱

people (Saanich, Songhees, Esquimalt, Beecher Bay, Cowichan, Chemainus People), by

Grand Chief Sammy Sam and Hereditary Chief Simon Smith Sr, in 2001 at the Tsawout

Longhouse at the direction of my father, IYÍEKTEN.

QENEṈ,IW̱

The history of QENEṈ,IW̱ was passed on to us by our Elders because it deals with the

natural laws of the W̱SANEĆ people. In relating the history and the incidents that

brought about the name QENEṈ,IW̱.

Our Elders told us that many years ago our family had a reefnet site located at SX̱IX̱TE; that was directly across the bay from what is now known as Poets Cove. Poets Cove resort is located on the village site of QENEṈ,IW̱. 

SXEDQELÁNEW̱ was the Chief of this village until our people were forcibly removed and relocated to Tsawout.

QENEṈ,IW̱ got its name from an incident that occurred around the reefnet site located at SX̱IX̱TE; ; Many years ago that reefnet was a thriving center of the economic life of our families of QENEṈ,IW̱. It was to benefit all the people of the village equally. That was the law. There came a time when a powerful SIÁWE (a visionary person who was able read thoughts and see individuals’ futures), was using her powers for personal benefit. The SIÁWE sought to take possession of the reefnet site at SX̱IX̱TE for her own benefit and personal wealth. She went out to the reefnet site and chased the fisherman away. XAALS the Creator saw what the SIÁWE was doing and came down from the heavens to the people of the village. He bade them all to look at the SIÁWE out at SX̱IX̱TE. A loud roar came from the heavens and a bolt of lightning shot down and struck the SIÁWE and turned her to stone. XAALS warned the people of the village “ Greed is against the laws of the W̱ILNEW̱ people, in order to survive you must share the wealth, none must go hungry. You have all witnessed the consequences. From this day forward this place shall be known as QENEṈ,IW̱ because of what you have witnessed!”

The youth team that organized the day were Josephine Henry, Peter Underwood, Sarah Jim and Nick Henry. 

After the great success of the first W̱SÁNEĆ Youth day, the youth team made a presentation to the Board of Directors of the Real Estate Foundation in Fall, in support of further funding for the upcoming project “Whose Land Is It?” which will provide a series of five videos in support of reconnecting W̱SÁNEĆ with ṮEṮÁĆES, their relatives of the deep.

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