By Savannah Walling (hl Gat’saa) and Nadine Spence
Communities across the land are under stress from the collateral damage of intergenerational legacies of displacement and systemic racism, and from mental stress resulting from the pandemic, physical distancing, closure of gathering places and isolation.
How do we recover from history’s weight? How do we move towards healing fractured families, communities and environments damaged by generations of horrendous loss? The loss of language, culture, economic independence, and ancestral homelands. The loss of children and the confidence to protect them. Disappearing salmon, food sources, and food gathering knowledge. Imposition of institutionalized racism and exclusionary policies. Pain coping addictions and collective forgetting to avoid passing pain on to future generations. We can’t change what our ancestors
experienced. We can’t change their actions. We’re living with the historical and cultural legacies.
Our communities need cultural activity that unpacks history, embraces cultural roots, engages the transformative power of story and song, raises creative voices with stories of resilience and survival with dignity, builds relationships of respect and connects peoples and communities across lands and waters.
A three-year multi-community multi-generational project is bringing together Indigenous families, tribes and territories of the Fraser and Thompson River watersheds to honour the lives and lived experiences of grandmothers who traveled to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Many lost connections with families and friends and their grandchildren don’t know their stories. Family members are working to restore relationships between generations and communities.
This cultural work takes place Nov. 5-7 at Oppenheimer and Strathcona Parks in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, on unceded ancestral homelands of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh.
Honouring Our Grandmothers Healing Journey 2021 Launch is produced by Further We Rise Collective/Sacred Rock Society in partnership with Vancouver Moving Theatre /Downtown Eastside Heart of the City Festival with three days of ceremony, teachings, storytelling, and art respecting Mother Earth, including a day co-hosted by the 7th Wild Salmon Caravan, the Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty and Vancouver Parks Board.
The launch of Honouring Our Grandmothers Healing Journey begins with the Nlaka’pamux wildfire fighters (IN-D-SPENCE-ABLE) carrying a travelling message chest from Vancouver’s sidewalks into Oppenheimer Park, to be welcomed by Stephen Lytton and Kat Norris.
Victor Guerin, Suzette Amaya, and Autumn Walkem will share the Honouring Our Grandmothers Healing Journey history and vision: from art and ceremonies to the journey of travelling message chests. The public can participate by writing messages to their ancestors, Grandmothers, and family and placing them in the message chest to help guide the spirits and memories of their families back home, to be properly respected and laid to rest.
To recognize and release generational Indigenous traumas
We all survived
Our Youth will gain a better understanding
Together we lighten grief’s burden
For a healthier better future
The journeys of travelling message chests
From the heartbeat of their nations in the high mountains
Through their salmon birth and death places
Alongside their Thomson and Fraser River watersheds
Pause in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside
Before carrying on to the Pacific Ocean
Then returning to their starting place
To complete the cycle
Grandma, you, and your children may not have been protected, valued, or respected,
So, we are going to do that for you, and all the grandmothers of today
We will continue loving you, in doing so loving ourselves,
breaking every cycle every single day.
We honour you and your children now and forever Grandmothers
Honouring Our Grandmothers Healing Journey aligns and interweaves wiith water and Mother Earth and thus aligns with the work of the Wild Salmon Caravan in their celebration of the spirit of wild salmon.
a Cedar Planting Ceremony
With a Cedar traveling Message Chest
We honour our Grandmothers
With earth, water, fire and air
Planting new Cedar Trees
To grow Strong
To Represent Indigenous food, medicine and healing
And connect us all for generations to come.
The partners are honoured to support this healing journey that links an inner-city neighbourhood with communities up-river and honours indigenous women, history, language, salmon and ways of life.
To participate in future projects
Further We Rise Collective is supported by Sacred Rock Society, whose founding was inspired by the Nlaka’pamux community of Spence’s Bridge, BC, with the vision of connecting indigenous arts, cultural heritage, language, with health, education, and the natural environment.
Further We Rise/Sacred Rock Society are inviting Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, grassroots organizations, businesses, and communities to participate and support the future journey of these honour chests for the next three years.
If you would like to help, contact sacredrock.ca.