Kwax’ Dzi Dsas Cultural and Arts Programming features a Native Plant Workshop with June Johnson, Saturday, Oct. 15 from 1-2 p.m. at The Abbey in Cumberland.
June’s traditional name is ‘Um’agalis. An Elder in the We Wai Kai Nation in Cape Mudge, she completed a Developmental Standard Term Certificate in Language Revitalization at UVic in 2009, then taught Liqwala/Kwak’wala language and culture in SD 72 (Campbell River). She believes that teaching and learning together foster a sense of pride and belonging. As co-ordinator of the Ligwiltach Elders and Youth Culture Group, June teaches youth the cultural protocol of the Big House and traditional dances. She also teaches First Nations traditional plants and medicinal workshops, blanket making, traditional food cooking and cedar weaving.
She first learned about medicinal plants from her mother, Elizabeth (Dick) Peters. She has been doing medicine for over 30 years.
“We didn’t have a car ferry, and when we got hurt we needed to deal with what was over there,” June said. “She didn’t go to residential, and she stayed home to learn the culture. Her role was going to be in the community. All of her life she looked after people on the reserve… a lot of the Elders and stuff. That was her role. Everybody had a role in the Big House. We had fishers, hunters, medicine women…A lot of that was handed to them. I was really thankful that my mom taught me some of it.”
For the presentation, June will describe the medical uses of 18 plants, and hand out samples of each to help with identification. Preparations of these plants will range from teas to salves. Some can be eaten directly.
Plant medicines outlined in the workshop are available in the area around unceded territory of what is now known as K’omoks First Nation (the people called K’ómoks today referred to themselves as Sahtloot, Sasitla, Ieeksun and Pentlatch). June will also teach how to harvest, respecting the cultural rights of the people whose territory you are on.
“We used a lot of the medicines since time immemorial,” she said. “It was passed down through the generations because we didn’t have a writing system back then. We were taught and then just passed it down from generation to generation. Everybody had a role. Once I learned medicine I could pass it down to the children. I’m trying to get the younger people to learn about the traditional medicines because I’m not going to be here forever and I really want somebody to take over.”
Kwax’ Dzi Dsas, a partnership between the Dawn to Dawn Action on Homelessness Society and the CV Transition Society, is an affordable housing project situated in Cumberland on the traditional unceded territory of the KFN.
The name Kwax’ Dzi Dsas was granted to the project by Elder Mary Everson. Everson nee Frank,“Uma’galis,” is Kwakwaka’wakw, K’omoks and Tlingit, and comes from the KFN.
A series of free cultural workshops will be held at The Abbey. Registration is limited to 12 people who are asked to bring an openness to listening. Listening is decolonizing.
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