New film project aims to connect W̱SÁNEĆ to the Southern Gulf Islands


The ṮEṮÁĆES Revitalization Project hopes to show traditional territories and the impacts of colonialism through film

Peter Underwood
Photo of Peter Underwood by Alex Harris.

On July 7, the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council, the W̱SÁNEĆ School Board, and the Southern Gulf Islands Community Centre have begun working on a new revitalization project.

The ṮEṮÁĆES Revitalization Project aims to promote revitalization and the connection between the W̱SÁNEĆ people and the ṮEṮÁĆES (Southern Gulf Islands). This project will consist of five videos: three focus on three different islands of the ṮEṮÁĆES (S,DÁYES/ Pender; S,ḴŦAḴ /Mayne and ṮEḴTEḴSEN/Saturna), one outlines the creation story of the ṮEṮÁĆES, and the last video focuses on a recently released paper by Dr. Nick Claxton and Professor Emeritus John Price titled, “Whose Land is it?” The project will also include community forums on the ṮEṮÁĆES focusing on the same question.

Tye Swallow is a facilitator of language revitalization at the W̱SÁNEĆ School board, and as one of the co-coordinators of the project, he was tasked with connecting elders and immersion teachers, and also ensuring they were brought to the islands. Swallow spoke to the Martlet about the history of the project and the potential future.

The ṮEṮÁĆES Revitalization Project is directly linked to a project of a similar name from 2020. Just before the COVID-19 pandemic, the ṮEṮÁĆES Climate Action project took place on S,DÁYES and was a chance for anyone, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to learn from elders about the area. These courses focused on the S,DÁYES basin, the other ṮEṮÁĆES, and the Salish sea.

According to Swallow, the Climate Action project, along with the release of the article by Claxton and Price, was inspiration to start another project focusing on the ṮEṮÁĆES.

“The presentation that John [Price] did for us was really powerful and really struck a chord with a lot of the people and participants in it,” Swallow said. “We wanted to stem straight from that and just start to do some Southern Gulf Islands-specific projects. […] So that stimulated this next phase that emerged into what it is now.”

The videos will feature elders and youth participating in a variety of activities on three of the ṮEṮÁĆES. S,DÁYES, S,ḴŦAḴ, and ṮEḴTEḴSEN are all featured in their own way.

Swallow told the Martlet about the variety of activities that happened on each of the ṮEṮÁĆES. On S,DÁYES, youth had the opportunity to participate in a salmon ceremony with local elders and hereditary chiefs, go to Flycatcher Forest to learn about ecology, and partake in other events like removing invasive species. At the other two islands the group took part in a circumnavigation of S,ḴŦAḴ and ṮEḴTEḴSEN and heard stories from elders. The circumnavigations and the transportation took place on the research vessel, the Achiever which belongs to Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

Although the videos are owned and will be used by the W̱SÁNEĆ School Board, they may also be available to other communities looking to design and implement similar projects.

“If this is valuable to other communities and some projects that they want to do, […] we certainly want it to be utilized by their communities […], but that’ll be determined by our school and on the outcomes of the project,” Swallow said.

A large component of the project that will likely not be happening until next year is a series of community forums on each of the islands. These forums will be made up of elders, immersion teachers, students, and residents.

“The idea is also to have community forums on the islands, so to take some elders, maybe some immersion teachers, and maybe some students out to the Gulf Islands,” Swallow said. “Run a community forum on whose land [it is], and just open up those topics in a safe way.”

Although the ṮEṮÁCÉS project is not yet done, there have already been thoughts about implementing a similar project on other parts of the W̱SÁNEĆ territory. When asked, Swallow said that it was his hope that this sort of project would be replicated.

“The really good thing about these kinds of projects is they emerge,” Swallow said. “They emerge based on the needs that the community finds of importance. So, we have to remain adaptive.”