Building Relationships through the Language of Place

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Public Talks | Open to: Public

This panel invites members of our Host Nations to respond to Emily Carr’s campus site. Hosted by Emily Carr’s Aboriginal Gathering Place, in partnership with the DESIS Lab.


Jan 28, 2021 12:30PM – 1:30PM

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Emily Carr DESIS Lab |

Building Relationships through the Language of Place (Panel)

Building Relationships Through the Language of Place

This day of dialogue and response to Emily Carr’s campus site is hosted by Emily Carr’s Aboriginal Gathering Place, in partnership with the DESIS Lab. Guests from our host Nations will join for two events:

Panel Discussion
Thursday, January 28, 12:30 PM
Zoom Link (Passcode: 929121)

How do Indigenous languages support intergenerational knowledge-sharing and collective relationship with land? How can we learn and share language as a means of strengthening reciprocal relationships with place and each other?

Guests include Xwalacktun and Splash/Aaron Nelson Moody (Sḵwx̱wú7mesh), Vanessa Campbell and Jill Campbell (xʷməθkʷəy̓əm), and Carleen Thomas (səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ)

Witnesses have an integral role in our communities to ensure the recollection of events, names, places and people are recorded in a respectful way. The importance of witnessing events in our communities is an oral way to document what was said and important activities that took place. For example, if a name was given there are individuals who would be called to witness, and they become responsible for remembering the names and the lineage of the name. It is important to bring this practice of witnessing to events such as these to ensure we are honouring and respecting the cultural practices of the knowledge being shared.

Facilitated by Connie Watts, this roundtable is intended to create space for individuals of the host nations to bring their perspectives and provide meaningful input on place, further insight and awareness of Indigenous knowledge and ways of knowing, and strengthen ties between our host Nations and the Emily Carr community.

This event is part of a series of discussions on Place-Based Responsibility hosted by the DESIS Lab in the spring of 2021. [More information]

Xwalacktun OBC (born Rick Harry) is a Squamish Nation artist whose works are recognized internationally. Early in 2013, he received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, and in 2012 he received the prestigious honour of the Order of British Columbia (O.B.C.) for his many contributions to various communities. He is also a recipient of the “FANS” Honour Award from the North Vancouver Arts Council which acknowledged his commitments both locally and world-wide.

Xwalacktun’s artwork is featured on the 20 foot tall Squamish Pedestrian overpass spanning Highway #99, The Sea to Sky Highway, plus a red cedar memorial pole for Transport Canada. He created the 10 x 8’ Double Doors for the Gordon Smith Gallery in the Artists for Kids Building. Xwalacktun designed the 2012 Senior’s Olympics medal torch as well as Rick Hansen’s 25th Anniversary print which was given to the many communities Mr. Hansen visited in 2011. A multimillion dollar home in Whistler featuring Xwalacktun’s four carved house posts received two Gold Georgie Awards in 2002. We also know him for the numerous and ongoing work he has done with a large number of elementary and secondary schools in 7 different districts.

Carleen Thomas, from the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, will lecture on The Tsleil-Waututh’s connections and obligations to these lands & waters, with attention to the relationships they've built. The lecture is highlighted with stories, family photos, and photos from the TWN archives.

Carleen served 8 terms (16 years) as an elected Council Member for her Nation. She is currently Special Projects Manager, Treaty Lands and Resources with Tsleil-Waututh Nation, and has served on boards including the Aboriginal Advisory Boards of SFU, Capilano University, Burnaby School District; North Vancouver School District, and the Nautsamaut Tribal Council. Currently, she is a Director-at-Large with the Wild Bird Trust of BC, sits on Indigenous Advisory Boards of Burnaby School District and Capilano University, and was recently appointed to the Board of Governors at Capilano University.

Jill Campbell, in her role as Coordinator for the Musqueam Language and Culture Department (2007-present), works closely with the MIB Language and Culture team, and with UBC’s First Nations and Endangered Languages Program (FNEL) to develop programming and resource materials that support and enhance hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ language revitalization.

Prior to working within Musqueam Administration, Jill served in FNEL for 10 years as co-instructor for all levels of hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ courses that are offered through the program. As a member of the FNEL team, she also had the opportunity to work under the terms of a collaborative partnership between Musqueam Indian Band and the UBC FNEL Program to participate in the development of course materials that are used in the set of hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ language courses offered through the FNEL Program. As part of this experience, she had the further opportunity to build on what she had already learned while working as a homemaker for Musqueam Elders while she was a young mother in her twenties. She is thankful for all of the valuable opportunities she has had to work with Musqueam Elders, to learn hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓, and for the opportunities to collaborate broadly toward its revitalization.

Aaron Nelson-Moody, or “Splash”, lives and works in the Capilano Village on the North Shore of Vancouver, British Columbia. These days, he is working mainly on jewelry engraving and repousse, and still carves the larger house posts and panels on commission. While Aaron is his English name, he also has his Squamish Nation name, Tawx’sin Yexwulla, which translates as: Splashing Eagle, so most people know him simply as “Splash”. He also carries the name, Poolxtun, from his adopted father Gerry Oleman, which he translates as, ‘the spreading ripples from a splash of water’. He has worked with community groups and students in a number of schools in the Squamish and Vancouver areas since 1995, as well as sharing in Japan and Scotland.

Vanessa Campbell is a proud member of the Musqueam Indian Band and her family lineage comes from the Campbell and Point families. Mentored by strong Musqueam women, Vanessa was taught the importance of traditional values and principles. She takes great pride in the rich culture of her people and has committed much of her time as a young adult to working with and mentoring youth in her community. She is dedicated to being an agent of positive change and is a role model for the next generation of strong Musqueam youth.

Vanessa spent seven years working with First Nations communities across Canada supporting the training and implementation of community-driven, culturally relevant programming, based in the holistic understanding that a strong sense of cultural identity is the foundation for success. The launch of her career in Language revitalization began in high school when she enrolled in the UBC First Nations and Endangered Languages Program. After completing two years of the Salish Language hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ courses, her leadership skills were recognized by UBC and she began working for the FNEL program. Ten years later, her passion for the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ language and the FNEL Program remains strong. She is now also working in the Musqueam Language and Culture Department to revitalize the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ language, and she sits on the Musqueam Cultural Committee and the Inter-Community hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ Revitalization.

The Land

Since time immemorial, our people have harvested, travelled, listened to and lived as one with the land. We weren’t restricted to the city borders and provincial boundaries that main stream society now uses to define land masses. Some locations were shared amongst multiple groups of people. If an area was a place to gather food, hunt place specific animals or collect medicines groups made “collective agreements” to share such areas. The Elders say that the language comes from the land.

Emily Carr’s Aboriginal Gathering Place is a centre that reflects the cultural characteristics of our Aboriginal students, community and traditions. This space is dedicated to student projects, workshops, ceremonies and celebrations of the University’s Aboriginal community. The Gathering Place allows our Aboriginal students to develop and strengthen their identities in a supportive, safe environment. The design of the space is relevant to and congruent with Aboriginal philosophies and values.

The Emily Carr DESIS Lab supports research that advances design for social innovation towards sustainability. DESIS envisions a future that supports resilience, equity and diversity across human and ecological systems through social innovation, design and environmental justice.

This event is made possible through funding from the Vancouver Foundation, the Ministry of Advanced Education, and the Association for Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning BC/Yukon (ACE-WIL).