Coast Salish Stories: Remember Your Snu’uy’ulh Teachings
By Celestine Aleck (Sahiltiniye)
Hello my dear friends and relatives, my apologies for not writing in sometime. I had been going through a hard time, and I let that break me. But I could hear my late grandfather Ronnie Aleck’s words in the back of my mind: “If you ever you are having a hard time in life, look at the whole picture.” It helped open my eyes and see that I hadn’t remembered to live by any of the Snu’uy’ulh teachings that our ancestors left behind for us.
As we deal with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in our communities, we need to stay connected through our Snu’uy’ulh teachings. Look at all the things our strong beautiful ancestors had to overcome because of colonization. There are so many examples we can use of things that we as First Nations people have been put through, yet we continue to be resilient. I ask you to remember the teachings the ancestors passed down to us. Get on the phone or FaceTime and talk to one another, and keep each other strong by gently reminding each other of teachings and the power of our ancestors — they overcame, and we to can do the same, for we come from the same bloodline.
We take care of Mother Nature just as she takes care of us. We also must remember to take care of ourselves: mind, body and soul. Our ancestors want us to have a strong mind and a strong heart. In keeping with having a strong mind, it’s important to start the morning off with a bath, whether it be up the mountains or in a river. In times now, I would suggest bathing in traditional medicines to help wash off feelings that can weigh our minds down. It’s also important to flip your mattress four times as we tend to leave our feelings, aches and pains where we sleep. When it’s time to clean your home it’s good to even cleanse the floors with some medicine as we leave feelings on our floors too, so toss some in a mop bucket and make sure to air the house out and let fresh air in. Always have a pot of cedar or balsam branches, or whatever it is you use, boiling on the woodstove so that it can keep the home cleansed and safe.
You must also feed your body well. The best way to take care of yourself right now is eat what is native to our lands for this is where we belong. We need sockeye, and many other fish that run up our rivers. We need to eat crab, prawns, and most of all seaweed. Should you need some healing foods, I would suggest you have bone marrow from soup bones. You bake the soup bones and when you eat the marrow it can help mend our bodies. Bone marrow has so many great healing qualities along with helping us digest red meat and absorb iron more easily.
Those are just some of my teachings that I would like to share. Reach out to your family members and find the teachings you have within your family for traditional medicines and drink those teas. Please reach out my dear friends and relatives, you are not alone. Yes, right now it can feel that way, but through the net we can help one another the best way we can.
Celestine is a published writer/illustrator and a member of Snuneymuxw First Nation. She considers herself very fortunate to have learned some of the rich stories of Coast Salish territory from her elders.