This page is where we post things like videos, recordings of virtual events, art and stories by participants and artists, documentation, and our learning and research. We'll keep adding content here as the project progresses.
Cedar Ceremony at Brewer's Park
On August 19th, 2020, Wes Nahanee led a ceremony for the removal of a cedar tree at Brewer's Park. The Vancouver Parks Board was removing the cedar as part of the remediation of Brewer's Park. Mount Pleasant community member, Leona Brown, attended the Parks Board's meetings and suggested to them that the cedar should be given to Indigenous artists to work with. Through Leona's work, one of the main branches was given to Jolene Andrew and Eric MacPherson to carve Supernatural Mystical Animals and Birds as part of Nu chexw kw’átchnexw kwétsi sḵel̓áw̓?/ Can you See Beaver?
Photos by Vanessa Kwan
Leona Brown is a Gitxan and Nisg’a mother of three children and is of the Fireweed House and the Killerwhale Clan. She writes, "I am an Indigenous Independent Cultural Facilitator. I gained three years of training in Land and Lives around Indigenous Culture with the Resurfacing History Program coordinated by Jolene Andrew.
This work has become my Healing Journey, the grassroots reachings and knowledge is shared with my children, This knowledge is important to know who we are and where we come from and how we live with the Lands and Waterways around us.
As a Gitxsan Refugee in the unceded territories of Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-waututh, I have been taking on land based work here in the city and thrive as a great ambassador to the work Resurfacing History has taught me around Indigenous food and resources that we harvest in the city.
I advocate at every opportunity with School Boards, City of Vancouver, and Vancouver Parks Board for all opportunities for Indigenous People to relearn our culture on the lands and waterways that we live on and actively talk of Reconciliation."
Listen to Leona describe the story of the cedar used to carve Supernatural Mystical Animals and Birds
Full transcript available here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1_jVZpTbnljDfkizsc30kjvnrbrpo6Q7WZfrCRHc2h0g/edit?usp=sharing
This project takes inspiration from Leanne Betasamosake Simpson’s writing about beavers, particularly in A Short History of the Blockade, Giant Beavers, Diplomacy, and Regeneration in Nishnaabewin. Simpson writes that In Nishnaabeg culture, the beaver represents wisdom, specifically “the art of kindness in knowledge.” The beaver, she explains, creates a “shared world” that benefits many other animals and plants. She likens the beaver’s dam to the Indigenous-led blockades in support of the Wet’suwet’en opposing Coastal Gas Link’s pipeline through their territory. Beavers remind us that some forms of obstruction can be life-sustaining sites for building community. We are interested in exploring these and other beaver teachings.
Near the end of A Short History of the Blockade, Simpson writes:
“There is currently a beaver resurgence of sorts happening on Turtle Island. Beavers have been seen round dancing in malls, blockading ports and intersections, holding teach-ins at universities, handing out filly gnawed beaver sticks to hikers. Urban beavers have started to cut down trees in parks and along rivers build dams over urban creeks, flood the odd trail or basement. They’ve starred in their own Imax movie, enticed scientists into studies, and rejected the stereotype of felt hat for something truer to their form.
And while there are still those among us who would trap or shoot or relocate, there are also those that are watching quietly, learning, thinking through world making together with the beaver.”
We are one such project, seeking to learn about our histories and our futures from the beaver.
You can listen to Simpson’s 2020 Kreisel Lecture here: https://www.cbc.ca/radio/ideas/the-brilliance-of-the-beaver-learning-from-an-anishnaabe-world-1.5534706
Weaving History & Stories:
Interview with Tracy Williams and Senaqwila Wyss + Live Q&A
A conversation between Jolene Andrew, Tracy Williams, and Senaqwila Wyss about the role of weaving in Squamish history, stories, and community building. The conversation will focus on memories and stories of MST territories and how families transmit knowledge and teachings through weaving. Q&A with Tracy and Senaqwila following the interview.
Recorded May 13, 2021
Full transcript of the event available here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1gaGBb9ZwoqbrByX6ef-jphJolmysda0fapjfFvezuSU/edit?usp=sharing
About Tracy, Senaqwila, and Jolene:
My ancestral name is Sesemiya, and I am a member of the Skwxwu7mesh (Squamish) Nation.
I am very interested in ALL things Coast Salish; traditional ecological knowledge; Skwxwu7mesh snichem (language); and cultural revitalization. I have been a basket weaver for over 20 years and descend from a long line of weavers. As such, I have intensively pursued my passion for a deep understanding of plants, animal fibres, foraging for wild food, spinning wild fibres, and learning how to read our traditional landscape from the perspective of a “Gatherer”. I am far from the life that my Skwxwumesh Ancestors have walked – and yet, bit by bit – I am rediscovering the value of fire; my unique relationship to plants and how they transform into food, fibre, or medicine; and the depth of knowledge that lays in the ocean. I have come back home to the Land, to her secrets and mysteries that have only begun to reveal themselves to me. And it is for this reason that I seek the pathway of a Salish Gatherer.
Senaqwila Wyss is Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation), Tsimshian, Sto:lo, Hawaiian and Swiss. She holds a Bachelors of the Arts Degree in the faculty of Communications, Arts and Technology, minor in First Nations Studies. She also holds a First Nations Languages Proficiency Certificate in the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Sníchim, and is pursuing her diploma in furthering her fluency and proficiency in the Squamish language. She and her husband are raising their 4 year old daughter , and adopted her 8 year old niece, to be first language speakers, which has not been done in her family four generations after colonial impacts, also learning his Líl̓wat Ucwalmicwts language. She practices ethnobotany with traditionally trained mom Cease Wyss with indigenous plant medicines. Senaqwila was raised learning these ancestral teachings and uses plants as teas, medicines, tinctures and ceremony. Her children are being raised with these medicines as well.
Jolene Andrew is a Gitksan Witsuwiten community organizer, artist, and facilitator specializing in urban Indigenous approaches to community health, education, justice, and social development. Jolene brings expertise in facilitating community dialogue, like her project “Re-surfacing History: Land and Life in Mount Pleasant”, a program aimed at developing a community process that identifies factors that interfere with creating and sustaining cultural connections. Jolene’s artwork explores animal symbolism and how it can be depicted to learn inter-connection between land and all living things.
Time lapse video of Jolene Andrew drawing a North West Coast design beaver
In this drawing workshop, Gitksan Witsuwit’en artist and community organizer Jolene Andrew shares stories from her life, cultural teachings, and the basics of North West Coast design. She shows participants how to use Northwest Coast design to draw both a frog and beaver.
Transcript available here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Cu1sbsv7pMBZBT7wjlH632n2BVQuRUFQNYrBm7qph6I/edit?usp=sharing
Recorded May 16th, 2021.
Drawings by Storytelling and Drawing Workshop Participants
Drawing of a beaver using Northwest Coast design
Pencil sketch of a beaver using Northwest Coast design
Pencil sketch of a frog using Northwest Coast design
May 16th beaver and frog drawings
June 23rd Frog drawings
Artist/poet Respondent jaz whitford
We are working with jaz whitford as an artist/poet respondent. jaz created two paintings responding to the project's events, time spent with Jolene and Eric, and the project as a whole. The paintings are based on jaz's observations and introspection on the project. jaz's work is posted here and will be screened on the Mount Pleasant Community Art Screen on the east side of the Rise building on Kingsway and Broadway. We are so thankful to work with jaz.
jaz is a 2 spirit anti-professional, working as an interdisciplinary artist centering community care, ancestral connections and qtpoc relief. they live semi-nomadically, along the unceded west coast of turtle island as well as the interior of so-called british columbia. jaz’s ancestry ties them to unceded secwepemcúl’ecw in the southern interior of so-called british columbia and more distantly to scotland, though the bulk of their work has bloomed within the traditional territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm , skwxwú7mesh, səl̓ilwətaɁɬ təməxʷ, Stó:lō, and Secwe̓pemc nations
where they have been overwhelmed with the warmheartedness, generosity and support of the host nations and indigiqueer community.
Mt Pleasant's Plant, Animal, and Human Histories with Cease Wyss and Bruce MacDonald
The videos below can be watched from wherever you are now or they can be used as a self-guided tour of Mount Pleasant's histories. The four locations are coFood Garden, Brunswick St and 5th Ave, Native Education College, and Tea Swamp Park.
Jolene Andrew and Eric MacPherson Carving Supernatural Mystical Birds and Animals Video
In this video Jolene Andrew and Eric MacPherson carve, paint, and speak about Supernatural Mystical Animals and Birds.
Recorded July 2021. Filmed and edited by Sebnem Ozpeta.
House Post blessing Ceremony
On August 19, 2021, we held a blessing ceremony for the Supernatural Mystical Animals and Birds house post. The ceremony included songs and everyone was invited to brush the post down with cedar boughs. Afterward attendees helped to load the house post into a van and it was brought to its new home at Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House.
Photos by Nellie Lamb and Vanessa Kwan
House Post Raising Ceremony and Celebration
Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House hosted a beautiful unveiling celebration for Supernatural Mystical Animals and Birds in November of 2021. The event included deliciou refreshments, speaking from Jolene, jaz, Eric, and Nellie, singing and drumming by Cease Wyss, the unveiling of the house post, and a witnessing ceremony led by Cease and Raine Andrew.
Photos by Sneha Nampally