This carving stands on a pole at Songhees Point. It depicts the importance of children and the spirit of this sacred site to the Songhees First Nation. This area is also known as Pallatsis, meaning “place of the cradle” in the Lekwungen language. When children were able to walk on their own, parents put their cradle along the waterfront to ensure them a long life. This was the launch site of 3 canoes that participated in the ‘welcoming of canoes’ ceremony and traditional protocol of approaching a First Nations territory and asking to come ashore. A young boy is seen walking behind this pole to join his father (not pictured) before they departed in the canoes for the ceremony and to open the 2015 Aboriginal Cultural Festival in Victoria, British Columbia.
OVER THE THREE-DAY Aboriginal Cultural Festival in Victoria, Canada, I witnessed the great pride of elders as they watched their children and grandchildren dance, drum and sing, celebrating and preserving their rich culture.
We were a mix of Aboriginal people, some in colourful regalia, and non-Aboriginal people that included local mayors, business leaders, and myself. We paddled in sync to the shared traditional territory of the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations to ask for permission to come ashore, a time-honored protocol. It was a historic day, as this had never been done before in the history of Victoria.
Chief Ron Sam of Songhees First Nation welcomed us ashore and stated the significance of the canoe ceremony when he said:
“You know I think it’s important, the acknowledgment, when we’re all in a canoe, pulling in the same direction. You know, I think that’s what we want to achieve on a daily basis.”
George Taylor, emcee of the Aboriginal Cultural Festival and director of Le-La-La Dancers of Kwakwaka’wakw First Nation sings and drums as he leads a procession of 3 canoes across Victoria’s Inner Harbor in the canoe ceremony. Ten-year-old Matthew Everson seen beside George wearing a ceremonial blanket and mask participates in this historic ceremony.
Chief Ron Sam of Songhees First Nation looks on as a youth dancer from the Songhees Nation greets the canoes, he then performed a paddle song to welcome us ashore.
A young drummer from the Esquimalt First Nation joins his grandfather (not pictured) on stage at the 2nd annual Aboriginal Cultural Festival in Victoria, British Columbia.
Lason Taylor performs as a young grizzly bear at the Aboriginal Cultural Festival in Victoria, British Columbia. Lason is a 3rd generation member of the Le-La-La Dancers First Nations dance company. The Le-La-La dancers are from the Kwakwaka’wakh First Nation in Northern Vancouver Island. They have been sharing their culture and traditions through song and dance under the direction of George Me’las Taylor locally and around the world for 27 years. The passing of stories from generation to generation is how their rich culture has survived and will continue to survive.
A drummer stands beside elder Ray Qwulshemut Peter, director of the Tzinquaw Dancers group from the Cowichan First Nation, as they sing and drum at the Aboriginal Cultural Festival. This group presented songs and dances that were taught to them by their elders. They shared a song that was sacred to them and asked that no one record or photograph the performance. Several elders that lead dance groups stepped aside and asked the younger generation to sing and drums their songs. George Taylor spoke of the importance of the “passing of the drumstick” and teaching children and youth so that their traditions, songs, dances and stories may be carried on.
A young boy drums as he performs with the Tzinquaw Dancers from the Cowichan First Nation at the 2nd annual Aboriginal Cultural Festival in Victoria, British Columbia. Children learn their traditional songs, dances and stories and participate in ceremonies and at festivals from a young age.
Amber Wells shares her story through a hoop dance. Amber’s father, Alex Wells is a 3-time world champion hoop dancer and has taught Amber the basics of this dance to which she has added her own elements.
Matthew Everson on stage at the 2nd annual Aboriginal Cultural Festival in Victoria, British Columbia. Matthew is a 2nd-generation dancer in the Le-La-La Dancers First Nation Dance Company.
Kelly Robinson of Nuu-chah-nulth and Nuxalk First Nations displays a raven mask that he carved from yellow cedar. Kelly shared that his favourite animal to carve is the raven as it the light bringer, it brings light to the world. Kelly comes from a family of carvers as his uncles and grandfathers also work with this art. This mask is used for dances or ceremonies such as the potlatch.
Young Michael Sheena of the Pauquachin First Nation shows off a drum he made from cut pieces of deer hide. He learned how to make rattles and drums from his grandfather, Virgil Bob. Virgil shared the month-long process of preparing a hide, such as putting the fur in a special solution and the scraping of fur. Michael comes from a family of artists as his grandfather’s sisters, Alva and Iona are weavers and jewellery designers. Michael was with his aunts and grandfather in the artist booth. I learned that Michael and Virgil also use elk and bear hide for their instruments.
Jason, Lason and George Me’las Taylor, 3 generations of the Le-La-La Dancers First Nations dance company. The Le-La-La dancers are from the Kwakwaka’wakh First Nation in Northern Vancouver Island.
It was an honour to be in one of 3 canoes during the historic Welcoming of Canoes ceremony. Watch a short 30-second video of my experience.
A non-profit agency that works to support and promote a culturally rich Aboriginal tourism industry in British Columbia. Their website is a fantastic resource to find authentic Indigenous experiences and events throughout the year.
Lifeguard station at Cherry Beach in Toronto, Canada.
Cherry Beach in Toronto, Ontario is my go-to beach for it’s laid back atmosphere. It’s my favourite place to sit by the lake and take some time out. It is much less crowded than the other Toronto beaches.
There are toilet facilities, a food truck and an off-leash dog park. You’ll often see kite boarders, kayakers, stand up paddle boarders and wind surfers. There are barbeque facilities as well, just bring the charcoal.
Cherry blossoms are in full bloom in Vancouver and area. We found these ones in South Surrey in March 2016 while we were on a family trip during March Break. As a resident of Toronto, have to say I was a little jealous of their cherry blossom trees. Not only do they bloom earlier than us, they have many more trees than we do in Toronto, at least, it seemed that way. We saw trees everywhere we looked from Vancouver to Abbotsford.
Vancouver celebrates the Sakura trees and even has a Cherry Blossom Festival. In 2016, it runs from March 24 to April 17th.
For more information about the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival including a map of cherry tree locations, visit here. The map helped us find the trees pictured above.
One of my favourite drives into the city and spot to view the CN Tower. Also, a partial view of the Rogers Centre (white roof). It was formerly named Skydome, I think I’ll always think of it as that. The Rogers Centre is home to the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team and until last year, the Toronto Argonauts football team. It was opened in 1989 and has a fully retractable roof and hotel attached to it with many rooms overlooking the field.