First Nations gathered to mark a important unveiling of a carved canoe on Pacheedaht First Nation territory last Thursday.
The project was a collaboration between the band and the University of Victoria, funded by a $200,000 grant awarded by the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada to the PFN and University of Victoria.
UVic assistant professor Sarah Wright Cardinal, who is Cree Treaty 8 and former PFN health director Roxy Jones, applied for the grant to fund the program to use Nuu-chah-nulth teachings to give apprenticeship opportunities to young men in the band.
Two band members, Trent Jones and Trystan Dunn-Jones, worked as apprentices on the project under the tutelage of master carver Micah McCarty, the former chair of Washington-based Makah Tribal Council.
“I left the Pacheedaht community when I was young, so I did not have the opportunity to learn about my culture, to come to know that part of me,” Dunn-Jones said.
“It is an amazing experience to learn to live my culture. I have a long way to go, but I hope to become a steward of the Pacheedaht culture and to pass on the knowledge I am gaining to the current and future generations.”
Several people were able to reconnect with Pacheedaht traditional knowledge during the four-month-long carving process.
Talisis (Trena Black) is a member of the T’Sou-ke Nation and has Pacheedaht heritage. She is also a PhD candidate at UVic, studying the social dimension of health, and spent the summer supporting the carvers and documenting the process.
“At first, I wasn’t sure how this would relate to my degree, and then I realized like this is absolutely a beautiful living example of what social dimensions of health is,” she said. “To wake up with that connection, belonging and the purpose that day to be outside carving the canoe and the togetherness, the importance of it – I just find that that is like the the heart of what social dimensions of health is.”
Pacheedaht Chief Jeff Jones said people were happy in the community and hoped for more partnerships between PFN and other governments and academic institutions.
“Is it a part of reconciliation? I think it’s exactly what this project is,” he said. “I think from here on in. I believe there’s a lot of future, positive partnerships that can happen with governments.”