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Salish Sea Sentinel | September 24, 2020

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Slhexun’s tthu Xpey’: Kw’umut Lelum youth carving cedar canoe

Slhexun’s tthu Xpey’: Kw’umut Lelum youth carving cedar canoe

Photos courtesy of Kw’umut Lelum

Indigenous youth in care are spending the next year transforming a cedar log into a traditional canoe under the guidance of Stz’uminus artist Luke Marston (Ts’uts’umutl).

Kw’umut Lelum Child and Family Services launched a new youth leadership development project called “Slhexun’s tthu Xpey’” (Medicine of the Cedar) in late August, when the canoe was blessed in a ceremony at Stz’uminus.

The youth have been working with Marston and elders to create the canoe, which is set to be completed for next year’s Tribal Journeys.

children blessing cedar logBill Yoachim, Kw’umut Lelum’s executive director, said the youth will be connected with teachings through the start of making the canoe until the end of Tribal Journeys.

Marston reminded the group at the cedar blessing that carving the tree will be sacred medicine.

“The tree when it falls doesn’t die – it has a living soul,” Marston said. “You must treat it kindly. You don’t just hit it with tools.  These are the teachings I learned from my elders.”

Josephine Underhay, 20, was a child in care under Kw’umut Lelum and said that Tribal Journeys is important because it’s often the first time children and youth in care are able to connect with their culture.

“For many of these children, this is the first time they are able to feel pride in who they are and where they come from,” she said in a statement. “Tribal reminded me that my culture is beautiful and strong and one of the things that got me this far in life”.

Kw’umut Lelum’s nine member nations are Snuneymuxw, Qualicum, Snaw-naw-as, Malahat, Stz’uminus, Halalt, Penelakut, Lake Cowichan and Lyackson.

This story has been corrected to fix a spelling error.