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Isolation

Mixalhítsa7, Alison Pascal in her garden

By Mixalhítsa7, Alison Pascal (Lil’wat), Curator at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre

As the world rests and resets itself, I’m left thinking about growing up visiting my Grandparents. It was normal to grow and provide food for ourselves; there was an abundance of fruit trees nearby, always a little garden in the backyard, evidence of once owning chickens, livestock to maintain and feed, trading and sharing with our neighbours. Us kids were always running around the neighbourhood, for fun and a mid afternoon snack we went out to pick the fresh berries all summer long.

All of this time at home has me thinking of the times of our Ancestors and how they managed to live off of the land. I just finished getting garden soil for my patio planters and hauled it up the stairs, it has me thinking that I’m not cut out to be a farmer! Lol

I imagine that our people had to be incredibly strong mentally and physically to go out hunting and gathering without modern conveniences. I’ve been wondering how our people prepared for that life. I found online two short documentaries by Alanis Obomsawin Puberty-Part 1 and 2 about the Puberty Training experienced by the Late Marie Leo of the Lil’wat Nation (The documentaries were made in 1975 and are available on the National Film Board of Canada’s website).

In Part 1 we learn about Marie’s childhood and in Part 2 we learn about her training and how she is isolated from most of her family and community so she concentrates on her tasks. She spends her time running, doing crafts, learning about local plants and how she can use them as medicine.

To learn a little bit of the Puberty Training for boys you can read “The Lil’wat World of Charlie Mack,” written by Dorothy Kennedy and Randy Bouchard. Kennedy and Bouchard met Charlie while working for a government sponsored project to create awareness of Indigenous Languages in British Columbia and Washington State.

In reading the “The Lil’wat World of Charlie Mack”, we learn a little of his training and the reason behind it:

“There was no question in Charlie’s mind that those that underwent such training were more attuned to the world around them; you could see it in the lightness of their step through the forest, or the way in which the animals came to them.”

To learn of another Lil’wat practice, gaining a Spirit Helper you can read “The Boy Who Had Cherry Bark As His Power” in the book Lillooet Stories, also written by Kennedy and Bouchard. This is an older practice not used for a couple of generations.

When I’m feeling angry and frustrated while waiting in line to enter the grocery stores or pharmacy I remember that this time in isolation could be more constrained and cut off from the world – but that it doesn’t mean that it’s such a bad thing. My Ancestors used isolation to plan for a better life for themselves by acquiring new skills and knowledge of the world around them. This gives me hope and while I was listening to the Late Marie Leo talking about the activities she did while in isolation, I found that I’ve been doing a lot of the same things. I’ve been going for walks to the same river while looking for the same medicines, I’ve been doing a lot more gardening and not so much crafting these days.

What have you been doing to self-reflect and ground yourself?

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