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Resilience in the Face of Racism and Conflict
Contact did happen. We can’t change that. But it’s how it happened. It’s how we were treated. That’s what matters. That’s what hurt the people, to have something forced upon you. And that’ll never work. Force your ideas onto someone else, force your culture on someone else, instead of respecting and acknowledging other people’s culture. The government isolated the people. Took away the lands and put people on reserves: “You stay there. You are not to go beyond this line. You are not to go into the white community.”
Our people were wiped out. There was thousands of people on the coast here before contact. And then to have children apprehended, because people didn’t know how to parent children anymore. They lost that so-natural teachin’: how to nurture your children, how to love your children. And telling your children you love them and giving them hugs and … ’cause nobody gave you those hugs when you were in residential school. You didn’t know how to give what you didn’t get.
I recognize and appreciate education. It’s very important. The tools that our children need for the future. To get by, to survive in this world. But at the same time, I stress the importance of remembering who you are, where you came from, and our culture and how rich that was. Just to get rid of the stigma of you were lazy, you were no good, you were worthless. What shame has been put upon our people has been our culture stolen from us. The language stolen from us. That our Nation was destroyed by someone else that came along and made it their business, made it their choice to abuse and destroy our people.
And because our people survived so much in the past, I’m confident that in the future our children will survive. New generations will survive and look back and be proud of who they were, two, three hundred years ago: “It’s my history. That’s our ancestors.” Not to be ashamed of themselves. To be strong.ʔəms naʔ (Culturally Sensitive) Material in this book may be culturally sensitive for a number of reasons. This label identifies such content by stating: “it is ours.”
ɬaʔamɩn teachings, laws, and practices that flow from them are subject to the ʔəms naʔ label because they are communally held and collectively stewarded by ɬaʔamɩn people for future generations. Much of this knowledge is captured in our legends, for example. The authors recognize that ɬaʔamɩn, Klahoose, and Homalco families have their own tellings of the legends.
Other parts of the book are labelled “ʔəms naʔ” because the ongoing nature of settler colonialism means that the histories discussed here are not part of a distant past. For close to a century, colonial laws and policies prevented community members from sharing teachings freely in their community without fear of punishment or retribution, imposing silences that remain even today. Thus this label also applies to chapters that discuss the genocidal practices that sought to interrupt the transmission of teachings and to sever ɬaʔamɩn sovereign rights to their territory.
Please treat information and photographs marked with this label with special care, especially if you plan to share them with others. xʷaʔ čxʷ xʷaǰišɛxʷ (Non-commercial) This label’s message is clear from its translation: “don’t be selling it, don’t be profiting from it.” It reflects the fact that this book was produced as a freely available and educational resource. The knowledge it conveys is not to be used for any commercial purpose. Please respect this label. ʔətᶿ naʔ (Attribution) The Sliammon-language term for this label means “it is mine.” This book contains the teachings and history of the ɬaʔamɩn people as remembered and narrated by Elder Elsie Paul. The effort and care she takes in this work is important. She offers a counter-narrative to incorrect and inappropriate interpretations previously drawn by settlers. Please respect Elsie Paul’s right and responsibility to relate the history and teachings in her own words. She does so from her own perspective and does not attempt to speak for all ɬaʔamɩn people. Please attribute the stories shared in this book to Elsie Paul.
Some sections of this book are authored by other individuals and should be attributed to the appropriate person(s) as indicated. tiʔiwš (Outreach) This label refers to a teaching that emerges throughout this book: “you learn from someone by example.” (The literal translation of tiʔiwš is “fast learner.”) The goal of this book is to share ɬaʔamɩn teachings and history widely with ɬaʔamɩn community members, students, and teachers at all levels, and with any other interested readers. This is Elsie’s goal in sharing ʔəms tɑʔɑw, and all of the authors hope the book serves an educational purpose. The authors ask readers to take care to use this information respectfully and in context.