The Welcome Post Project has initiated a community in Port Moody seeking a deeper understanding of what it means to be a Canadian. Lead by local First Nation artists and Knowledge Keepers the Welcome Post Project has begun building a community who acknowledges a shared sacred responsibility to care for these Coast Salish Lands and Waters. With heartfelt and powerful discussions with Tseil Waututh Cultural Leader Gabriel George and two evenings with Kwantlin artist Brandon Gabriel we are creating a community committed to continuing a personal discovery of how to participate in Truth and Reconciliation, seeking ways to foster genuine relationships, and honouring the First People who’s land our city is built on.
Hosted by lead Coast Salish artist Tasha Faye Evans, the Welcome Post Project gained more and more momentum as the summer progressed. People began returning each week to learn more, to hear more stories, and gain more of an understanding of each other and of First Nation culture and perspective. Each event gathered a diverse group that included both First Nations and non-indigenous participants. For the final evening of Coast Salish Drumming and Singing with Russell Wallace there were over 50 people gathered under the gazebo at Noons Creek Hatchery. We were honoured by the presence of Tseil Waututh Elder Dee George for the M’Girls concert with three powerful and beautiful women sharing songs about their connection to the land and their ancestors. There was a lovely exchange between M’Girls and the audience that night as each artist expressed to Dee George how important BC and Port Moody was to them even though they are guests living in Coast Salish Lands and Waters. We all joined hands that night and danced a round dance.
The Welcome Post Project summer program has been a transformative experience, offering an invaluable opportunity for everyone to not only enjoy Coast Salish culture but to also confront larger concepts like racism, genocide, and truth. The community was deeply moved by Brandon Gabriel’s first dialogue in July about Reconciliation that they requested a second discussion be programmed. As an audience, again with both First Nations and non-indigenous members present, we defined reconciliation as best as we could in just a few hours. Many informative and inspiring conversations happened with the ideas people were sharing. It was agreed that “Reconcili-ACTION” was a more accurate term to initiate an active understanding of how to participate in change. It was also agreed that it is essential for each one of us to personally commit to seeking truth, fostering genuine relationships, and taking action to change what injustices we are witness to. That night our Welcome Post Project T-shirts that say “Sacred Responsibility in Coast Salish Lands and Waters” made significantly more sense and people had a deeper sense of pride in wearing them. It is a complex relationship for First Nation Knowledge Keepers to navigate when sharing personal stories and traditional teachings in a non- indigenous space. Each artist individually expressed how grateful they were to be received with genuine honour by our community and that they felt warm and willing to share. Brandon Gabriel even told the audience that being with us that night gave him hope, and he doesn’t give that hope away easily!
With the Welcome Post Project, we have begun a conversation about our values as our city grows in population and development. When Rueben George led his drum-making workshop at Mossom Creek he shared his passion for defending the Burrard Inlet. He encouraged everyone to put their good thoughts and prayers for mother earth into their drum so that when it was played it would send good medicine to the Creator. The following week every one returned with their new drums to Russell Wallace ‘s evening of Coast Salish Drumming and Singing. An audience member shared with us how much the Welcome Post Project has changed her life and given her a renewed perspective of nature and what her own responsibility is in taking care of all of our relations.
Port Moody is a young and growing community. We have an opportunity here to build a foundation for our city that is based in equitable respect for First Peoples and a shared commitment to care for these Coast Salish Lands and Waters for future generations. The Welcome Post Project has created an opportunity for our community to come together within the context of a Coast Salish worldview, to develop shared core values as our city continues to grow, and to know in our hearts what it means to be part of all of our relations and how it is a responsibility for each of us to be active in change for the well-being of future generations.
Join us in our next phase of the Welcome Post Project as we collaborate with Squamish carver James Harry to design and raise Port Moody’s first Coast Salish House Post!
All my relations, Tasha Faye Evans
Acknowledging that we are on the unceded, occupied, ancestral and traditional lands of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish),Stó:lō and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.