Skw’cháys, CapU’s Legacy
In honour of Indigenous History month, I recently attended the Capilano University Canoe Awakening Ceremony for Skw’cháys. The university commissioned carvers Ses siyam (Ray Natraoro) and Xats’alanexw siyam (Victor Harry) to create the Coast Salish Canoe for their 50th Anniversary.
The female family members awakened Skw’cháys with cedar branches and wore blankets to protect their hearts from spirits. While Ses siyam, Xats’alanexw siyam and the other male family members played music and sang a historical song. Traditionally, if a canoe is not awakened, riding on it will feel heavy and sluggish. But when the canoe is awake, it will be buoyant and travel faster. I wanted to capture the ceremony in photos but an Indigenous Faculty member told me that I shouldn’t. I should be present in body, mind and spirit. And I am thankful that she advised me not to.
On the day of the ceremony, Skw’cháys was awakened in preparation for the upcoming 2023 Convocation. He will be put to sleep again in the fall. The ceremonies mark the beginning and end of the students academic journey at Capilano University.
I am grateful that the Indigenous Student Services welcomed us to witness the ceremony. And I was fortunate to able to listen to Squamish Nation Elder Rose Nahanee speak for the second time. The first time was at the Fall 2019 Welcome Orientation when I started the Bachelor of Communications program.
Capilano University Calling
In 2019, Elder Rose spoke about how that morning the canoe symbolized a journey home for her and the Squamish Nation. Further, she said that we all chose Capilano University, but CapU also chose us too. This hit home for me. During my senior year of high school, when the UBC, SFU and CapU recruiters came, I knew I wanted to go to there. I felt it so strongly inside of me. A knowing. Capilano was calling me.
Today, she also spoke about how we are all on a journey whether we are students, faculty or staff at CapU. Once again Elder Rose’s words resonated with me. The last four years at Capilano has been a wonderful journey that has marked many successes in my student career.
“Stand Tall and Proud ” — Elder Rose Nahanee
During my fist term, I joined the Capilano Young Women in Business Club as their social media consultant and I became the Secretary for the Capilano Radio Club. Now, I am the VP of Cap Radio and in 2022, I joined the CSU Surf Club. Since 2019, I have been a contributor and in 2022 a columnist at Capilano Courier. And since 2021, one of the editors of Liar Zine.
I proudly served four years as Capilano Students’ Union’s (CSU) Mature and Parent Students Liaison and three as the Chairperson of CSU’s Collectives Committee. Finally, I am excited to begin my role as one of the Student Representatives of the Board of Governors in August.
After the Awakening Ceremony, I spoke with Elder Rose Nahanee and told her how I love her speeches. She thanked me and asked me what program I was in. I told her my major and my involvement with the CSU and my new role with the Board of Governors. She told me to continue with that, there are not enough women involved.
“Stand tall and proud,” Elder Rose said during her speech. I am.