For children who attend Salt Spring Centre School (SSCS) on Blackburn Road, the woodland trail is a well-loved part of their learning environment.
At a gathering last Thursday to celebrate new Indigenous signage on the trail, school principal Kate Richer described how when she asks former students about their best Centre School memories, they invariably “say ‘the forest.’ Playing in the forest, the walks, everything they do outside . . . And so we want to really acknowledge this place, a very special place that really belongs to none of us but that we’re very thankful that we have the privilege to be here for.”
Thanks to the Salt Spring Island Foundation (SSIF), Quw’utsun chef and “food sovereignty warrior” Jared Qwustenuxun Williams and other contributors, students and anyone who walks on the trail can now see images of native plants on the trail, and read text about traditional uses and other cool information, along with a number of Hul’q’umi’num’ words.
The project idea came from SSCS teacher Schuyler Witman, after replacing old natural history signs on the trail was discsussed. At the April 27 event, Witman read a journal entry she had written, giving insight into her motivation. Williams also addressed the group, and talked about how easily the youngest SSCS kids had grasped the Hul’q’umi’num’ words he was teaching them, in contrast to the difficulties some elders seem to have.
“And I realized that my generation is the first generation that actually was able to hang on to the language. Every generation above me for the last five generations has not had that opportunity.”
Williams said it was wonderful to hear the language that was almost lost being spoken by the SSCS children and for the trail sign words to be part of Hul’q’umi’num’ language revitalization.
He also spoke about how every living thing — tree, plant, animal, blade of grass, etc. — is considered a “relative” who has passed. He drummed and sang to invite the ancestors to walk with the group on the trail.
Members of the school and Salt Spring Centre of Yoga communities also attended the event, along with Salt Spring Island Foundation administrative assistant Rebecca Martin. The SSIF grant came from the SSIF Indigenous Priorities Fund.
What a wonderful way to share the Hul’q’umi’num language with everyone who lives on Salt Spring Island!