FPCC’s Infrastructure Heritage Program is supporting the Stz’uminus Trail Project: connecting youth with the land, culture and teachings as they build an interpretive trail for their community.
Trails are pathways that connect us from one place to the next and provide a route to follow so we don’t get lost. Some Stz’uminus youth are learning that trails can also teach you a lot about yourself, what you are capable of and your connection to the land that you came from.
The Stz’uminus Sxwi’em’ Shelh Story Trail Program – Sense of Place Land-based Education is a project run by the Stz’uminus Education Society (SES) located near Ladysmith, B.C. The project plan is to build a heritage infrastructure trail to provide community members with access to nature, cultural beach sites and improved accessibility between the school, residential area and cultural food gathering site.
’Ilhe nem’ yaays ‘Let’s go to work.’
The trail weaves a raised boardwalk through large old-growth trees and includes a gathering site with a fire pit. “Because of the very intensive and intentional way the project is moving forward, it is developing a sense of place for young people who are growing to love this site,” said Riley McIntosh, Project Coordinator. “As a result, this forest will be protected into the future as a cultural site.”
The goals and outcomes of the trail project align with a series of Stz’uminus “provocative propositions” and the SES Strategic Direction informed by Elders, matriarchs and community members. The work is guided by these four principles: “snuwuyulh (sacred teachings), tsi’tsu watul (helping each other), nu stli’ch (love) and nutsamaat (together as one), Stz’uminus mustimuxw lead the way on our journey as life-long learners.”
“Our elders have told us that the land-based learning and a reciprocal relationship with the land is how they want to see us proceed with future programming,” said Justin Magnuson, SES Education Administrator, “And so the trail program is that next bold step to fulfill the guidance of our Elders.”
The people of Stz’uminus have been working trails through the forests for thousands of years. This is not a new project idea, but a revitalization of the past work carried out by their ancestors to provide new paths for the future. The trail work is being constructed in stages with specific groups of youth. So far, this has included a group of 10 girls ages 12-14, a grade five class and currently, boys ages 8-12.
Tsi’tsu watul (helping each other)
There is a strong emphasis on not just working on the trail, but also working on themselves. With guidance from Trail Support Worker Harvey Jack and a clinical counsellor, they are learning about socio-emotional and behavioural themes and techniques, receiving cultural teachings from Elders and knowledge sharers, and participating in other cultural activities. Sessions with Elders involve lessons on how to live, traditional foods and plants, and often include Hul’q’umi’num language teachings.
“Being on the trail is magical in many ways,” said Harvey Jack. “It’s helped me in my journey to better understand myself, to know what I need or see my life clearly. Children, Elders and myself – the positive impact and the uplifting joy I see is amazing. A safe, sacred place for everyone.”
Those working on the trail carry a responsibility not only to work on the project but also on themselves. The youth involved commit to following the four intentions of the trail which are summarized as the following:
- Act in a healthy way and to show up on time and ready to work
- Positively change behaviour and reactions – “I will learn new ways on the trail”
- Respect for others, all people are sacred and we are all related
- Be responsible for myself – “I will remember that I was born for a purpose and I am a beautiful sacred being”
For the completion of the trail the project the participants are contributing their ideas, experiences, feelings and information to content that will be used for interpretive signage throughout the trail and a hardcover book to document their experiences. It will be amazing the see the results of all this work and the teachings that come from time spent on the trail.
Hay ce:ep qa “Thank you”
We raise our hands to these young people whose hard work is teaching them many good lessons and providing a gift to their community. They are demonstrating how heritage infrastructure can be developed in many ways and includes important cultural teachings.
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