Thompson Rivers University
Thompson Rivers University

Part 2: Awakening the Spirit Video

Awakening the Spirit: A Musqueam Canoe and Language Revitalization Research Project A 3-year Insight Grant funded by SSHRC and the Musqueam Indian Band

By Shelly Johnson/Mukwa Musayett (Thompson Rivers University, Canada Research Chair in Indigenizing Higher Education and Associate Professor) — Updated June 21, 2017.


Our research team is pleased to announce the release of this 21-minute video that tells the story of a 3 year canoe and language revitalization project between the Musqueam Indian Band (in Vancouver), Thompson Rivers University and UBC Vancouver. Awakening the Spirit is a video that will be screened at Musqueam Indian Band during their National Ibdigenpus Peoples' Day celebrations and will be shown at NAISA 2017 on Saturday, June 24, 2017 at UBC.

This canoe and language revitalization project is guided by a Musqueam Advisory Council comprised of Musqueam leadership, youth, elders and workers. My role is as PI on the project, and my partners are Corrina Sparrow of Musqueam Indian Band, Andrea Lyall in the faculty of Forestry and Dr. Jo-Ann Archibald of the faculty of Education at UBC Vancouver.

During my doctoral education, no one told me that Indigenous social work research could involve heavy tractors, loaders, chainsaws, axes, a tugboat, a 350 year old log and learning to build a carving shed. But it does. That's what happens when Indigenous communities take the lead on developing research that is relevant and matters to them. Our role as University witnesses is to find the resources and to tell the story of what happens within community-based research shaped by Indigenous communities.

This video is the story of the first red cedar Journey canoe carved in Musqueam in the past 30 years. It is carved from a 350 year old tree originally grown on Vancouver Island. The carving process was approximately 3 months long and is detailed in this video, along with the role of the carvers, teachers, helpers and learners. Today, because of this project, Musqueam has a carving shed centrally located its community, and people that have revitalized Salish canoe carving knowledges and practices.

Elder Elmer Sampson and Elder Dickie Louis are the chief Coast Salish carvers on the project, and are at the forefront of revitalizing traditional canoe carving teachings and knowledge in the Musqueam FN community. In July 2017, this canoe will be used by Musqueam pullers on the Pulling Together journey off the coast of British Columbia. While it is not the first time that Musqueam IB will enter the Pulling Together Journey, it is the first time that a carved canoe from Musqueam will be entered in the Pulling Together journey. The canoe family will be led by Rhiannon Bennett of Musqueam.

My hands are raised to Corrina Sparrow, the Social Development Manager at Musqueam Indian Band for her leadership on this project. Without her vision, dedication and commitment to healing in her community, this project would not be a reality.

My hands are also raised to the entire community of Musqueam. Miigwetch, my friends and relatives for making space for an Indigenous visitor from the Prairies and from a post secondary institution to be a part of your important healing work. It is a huge honour to contribute something back to the people that have losy so much through colonization, and have given so much to so many. This project will always remain some of the most important research work of my life.