Alexander College acknowledges that the land on which we usually gather is the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples, including the territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. We are grateful to have the opportunity to live and work in this territory.
The Coast Salish peoples are quite diverse with an abundance of First Nation living along the Northwest Pacific Coast in British Columbia, which includes the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island south to Washington and northwestern Oregan United States.
Coast Salish peoples lived in what is called ‘plank houses’, which were made of cedar wood. Cedar wood, more specifically, red cedar, is considered sacred for the Coast Salish peoples, along with salmon as they both provide valuable resources to the people. Coast Salish peoples are known for their art, which includes house posts as well as paintings, and sculptures of Northwest Coast animals and spiritual beings.
Image: Coast Salish Art: Sea Monster
According to Salish legend, their story begins with the Creator, the Old-Man-In-The-Sky. The Old-Man-In-The-Sky first sent Coyote down to earth, along with this friend Fox to prepare the earth for humans. Both the Coyote and Fox are responsible for not only creating many geological formations, but also providing humans with special skills and knowledge.
“At the core of this story is the fact that we are all made by the Creator, and we must respect and love each other. All creation consists not only of mankind, but of all creations in the animal world, the mineral world, the plant world– All elements and forces of nature. Each has a spirit that lives and must be respected and loved.”
(The Salish Creation Story)
Orange Shirt Day is a legacy of the St. Joseph Mission (SJM) Residential School (1891-1981) Commemoration Project and Reunion events that took place in Williams Lake, BC, Canada, in May 2013. This project was the vision of Esketemc (Alkali Lake) Chief Fred Robbins, who is a former student himself. It brought together former students and their families from the Secwepemc, Tsilhqot’in, Southern Dakelh and St’at’imc Nations along with the Cariboo Regional District, the Mayors and municipalities, School Districts and civic organizations in the Cariboo Region.
The events were designed to commemorate the residential school experience, to witness and honour the healing journey of the survivors and their families, and to commit to the ongoing process of reconciliation. Chief Justice Murray Sinclair challenged all of the participants to keep the reconciliation process alive, as a result of the realization that every former student had similar stories.
(Orange Shirt Society)
Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun
Image: Indian World My Home and Native Land
National Truth and Reconciliation Day is a chance to learn more about the history of residential schools in Canada. Alexander College Library has created an Indigenous Studies Guide, which provides books, eBooks, free online courses, and other resources for AC students to explore and learn. Check out the guide below for more information.
Dorothy Kennedy, Randy Bouchard “Coast Salish,” The Canadian Encyclopedia, January 21, 2008, https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/coastal-salish
Chief Henry Speck, “Ceremonial Art Exhibit” Ceremonial Art, December 5 2013, https://ceremonialart.ca/2014-chief-henry-speck-udzistalis-the-greatest/.
“The Salish Creation Story” The Salish Tribe, 2004, https://salishtribe.wordpress.com/salish-culture/the-salish-creation-story/.
Cover Image by Jessica Muzzi