I was standing outside the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre when the Reconciliation Canoe was completed. I’d been there for an event, when Heather Paul interrupted our lunch to let us know that the canoe was finished and team-members were singing and drumming to mark the moment.
I’d already taken a tour with Q̓áwam̓ Redmond Andrews and Brandon Hall, of the canoes, which is a genuinely spectacular experience – to appreciate the wayfaring mastery of the peoples of this land, that the rivers and oceans were the highways and lifeblood, that the technology to travel was so incredibly sustainable and life-sustaining… and that so much courage and effort has been made to revitalize this knowledge, against so much. I’d held the cedar paddles, that are so light, and beautiful to hold. I had a small pouch of cedar shavings, as a gift from the Reconciliation Canoe.
I’d asked if it was okay to touch the canoes, because my instinct, always, was to reach out and connect with these vessels, these travellers, these transformed trees.
Master Canoe builder Chief Ray Natraoro Ses Siyam, and Apprentices Jonas Jones, Q̓áwam̓ Redmond Andrews and Brandon Hall were there, standing alongside their colleagues from the Centre, when the season long project reached its completion.
A handful of visitors were gathered around too, and after the singing was finished, someone asked, “why is it orange?”
“For the children.”
The inside of a canoe would normally be painted red, in Squamish tradition, but this one was painted orange, to honour the children. The canoe was carved from a reclaimed log – one that had been a pillar supporting the old Haida-style longhouse that was erected years before in Rebagliati Park.
(Below: photos from the opening ceremony for the project, with the reclaimed log, in which Master Canoe builder Chief Ray Natraoro Ses Siyam could see the potential canoe.)
On Saturday, she was named Sí7la – Grandmother and awakened in a ceremony on the waters of Alta Lake.
Alta Lake, I learned some years ago, is unique, in the way it outflows both north and south – located at “the top of the pass”, its waters flow north towards Pemberton, and south towards Squamish. It seems fitting to have awakened the canoe here, then, a body of water that literally represents the connection and overlap and flow between these two Nations and the unique way they’ve come together through the SLCC to recognized their shared territories in Whistler — and to be recognized, for the presence of their language, culture and people, on this land, since time out of mind.
via SLCC: Sí7la – Grandmother
Today the great Community Reconciliation Canoe received a beautiful awakening ceremony and took its first water journey here on waters of the shared territories of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh and Líl̓wat7úl on Alta Lake, Whistler.
Sí7la carries the beautiful spirit of the children who never made it home, held in her embrace. Glowing orange inside, and wrapped by outer black, and beautifully detailed copper faces for the children and cedar trim.
We raise our hands to Chief Ray Natraoro Ses Siyam, and the Squamish Canoe Family for the beautiful awakening ceremony today, along with Apprentices Jonas Jones, Qawam Redmond Andrews and Brandon Hall for your dedication.
Join us at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre to see the Community Reconciliation Canoe. See and honour the great gift that Master Carver has offered through his teachings to our new generation, to our Nations, Elders, youth, community to bring this great canoe to life. Sign a paddle in acknowledgment of your journey in community reconciliation.
We raise our hands to the Pacific Economic Development of Canada, BC Arts Council and Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) for supporting this important work.SLCC