WSÁNEC project helps restore historic connections

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BY TETÁCES REVITALIZATION PROJECT

Archaeological records establish Coast Salish cultural presence in the Southern Gulf Islands spanning more that 5,000 years. WSÁNEC traditional knowledge extends that span to time immemorial through protected creation stories. 

The WSÁNEC Leadership Council (WLC) and the WSÁNEC School Board (WSB), in partnership with the Southern Gulf Islands Community Resources Centre (CRC), have launched the TETÁCES Revitalization Project to help restore the WSÁNEC Peoples’ historic connection with the Southern Gulf Islands, known as TETÁCES in the SENCOTEN language.

WSÁNEC Leadership Council director of operations Gord Elliott observed: “The WSÁNEC people have been too long separated from the islands as a result of the oppressive impacts of colonization and the failure of the settler population to recognize our unceded inherent rights. This project supports the resurgence of the WSÁNEC people in our traditional homeland.”  

This project, supported by a $75,000 matching grant from the Real Estate Foundation of B.C., will provide a series of five educational videos highlighting WSÁNEC traditional knowledge and the role that TETÁCES plays as part of WSÁNEC homeland — ÁLENENEC. TETÁCES translates as “relatives of the deep” in the WSÁNEC creation story for the islands.

The videos will highlight excursions of WSÁNEC elders and youth to the three southernmost islands:- S,DÁYES/ Pender; S,KTAK/Mayne and TEKTEKSEN/Saturna on Raincoast Conservation Foundation’s 66-foot research vessel the Achiever. Each island will be the subject of a video providing a WSÁNEC perspective on that island.  

A central video of the project provides an historical perspective on WSÁNEC homeland, focusing on the question “Whose Land is It?” This video will be based on a recently published paper by assistant professor Nick Claxton and John Price, emeritus professor of history at the University of Victoria, titled “Whose Land Is It? Rethinking Sovereignty in British Columbia.

A fifth video will present the TETÁCES creation story in an animated video portraying the creation of the islands and emphasizing the “reciprocal stewardship” role  the WSÁNEC people have with these islands — their “relatives of the deep.”

These five videos will be owned by the WSÁNEC School Board and will be used in the tribal school curriculum to support the TETÁCES revitalization initiative. The videos will also serve as the basis for a community forum on each of three southern islands in 2022, focusing on the question “Whose Land Is It?” and exploring how the WSÁNEC reciprocal stewardship obligation can support sustainable land use and inform the Islands Trust’s “preserve and protect” mandate. 

Project co-coordinator and CRC director Peter Paré said, “The TETÁCES Revitalization Project is a community-to-community engagement with support from the WSÁNEC Leadership Council, the WSÁNEC School Board, Raincoast Conservation Foundation, UVic’s Living Lab Project, the SGI Community Resources Centre, the South Pender Historical Society and the Capital Regional District with matching funding from the Real Estate Foundation of B.C. The TETÁCES Revitalization Project builds on the very successful 2020 TETÁCES Climate Action Project.”

Elliott adds: “The islands, our relatives, have provided a way of life for our people for thousands of years and WSÁNEC law creates a reciprocal relationship of care and stewardship between WSÁNEC and TETÁCES. This responsibility is absolute; we are obligated to care for these islands, not only through our own actions but by protecting the islands against harmful actions by others. This project supports our exercise of this deep responsibility.” 

For more information on the project, people can contact its co-coordinators: Tye Swallow, WSÁNEC School Board – tye@saec.ca; and Peter Paré, Community Resources Centre – peter.pare@hli.ubc.ca – 250-222-0358.

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