Coast Salish Sign Blessing Ceremony • National Indigenous Peoples Day
Updated October 31, 2020
Watch the Documentary
“Nex̱wlélex̱wm: Building A Mighty Bridge”
|Watch the full ceremony video.
Read the video description notes below the video on Youtube for an understanding of the ceremony steps.
|Click here for a video on how to pronounce Nexwlélexwm by Khelsilem.|
On June 21, 2020, in Coast Salish tradition, the Bowen/Nex̱wlélex̱wm Family (Elizabeth Bowker, Pauline Le Bel, Brenda Morrison and Jami Scheffer) invited the Squamish Nation Family (Alroy “Bucky” Baker K’etximtn, Stewart Sempúlyan Gonzales, Mary Capilano, and Dennis Joseph) to bless our new sign –Nex̱wlélex̱wm, the ancestral name for Bowen Island – and to honour the carver, Coral Louie.
The ceremony serves to separate the carver from the sign, which now belongs to the community, who is now responsible to care for “this beautiful spirit” as described by Bucky. “Language and words are important,” said Pauline Le Bel in her words of gratitude. “They shape our actions, our future. This sign is now part of our present, shaping our future.”
Six witnesses were called (Chris Corrigan, Mayor Gary Ander, Susan Munro, Rob Gloor, Michael Yahgulanaas and MP Patrick Weiler). The role of the witness is to speak from the heart and to take back to their people what the ceremony means to their community.
The sign blessing ceremony was presented by Knowing Our Place, a reconciliation initiative begun three years ago by Pauline Le Bel with dedicated support from the Bowen Island Arts Council and the Bowen Island Public Library. The goal is to foster mutually-enhancing relationships between Squamish Nation and islanders.
“A healing journey has begun,” said Dennis Joseph, Squamish Nation Elder and Knowledge Keeper. “We are no longer strangers. By sharing our ancestral name, our ancestors will know you from this day forward… A mighty bridge is being built.”
Photos by Len Gilday
Media Release – June 2020
National Indigenous Peoples Day 2020
Coast Salish Sign Blessing — Nexwlélexwm
Bowen Island — Sunday, June 21, 2020
Event Hosted by Knowing Our Place — Pauline Le Bel, The Hearth and Bowen Island Public Library
Apologies to those who were planning to watch the live stream of Sunday’s blessing ceremony for the Coast Salish sign—we are unable to provide live streaming. However, we will be posting video as soon as possible after the event. A short documentary of the ceremony, the sign, and how it came to be is in the works to share with the community.
Due to COVID-19 health orders, we ask that members of the public please do not attend the ceremony itself. To ensure everyone’s safety and to respect the specific wishes of the Skwxwú7mesh Nation participants, this event cannot be a public in-person event.
The sign will be unveiled June 21 (National Indigenous Peoples Day) with representatives from the Skwxwú7mesh Nation and invited representatives of Bowen Island. Squamish Nation will bless our new sign, as it is unveiled to welcome residents and guests to Nexwlélexwm (Bowen Island).
Again, to ensure physical distancing measures we ask that members of the public please do not attend this event in person but enjoy the video from the comfort of home. The full documentary, being created by Meribeth Deen, will be available to watch after the event and will be available at bowenlibrary.ca and at thehearth.ca.
Pauline Le Bel said in her recent article in the Undercurrent about this historic event “Squamish people called this island Kwilàkm and Nexwlélexwm long before settlers attached “Bowen Island” to its shores. Now the island will recognize its original name with a sign at the Snug Cove Dock alongside the “Bowen Island Welcomes You” sign. The unveiling of the sign is part of the Knowing Our Place reconciliation initiative, which I began three years ago with the dedicated support of the Bowen Island Arts Council and the Bowen Library.” Read the full article here.
Funding for this initiative was gratefully received from the following contributors:
- Bowen Island Municipality
- Heritage Canada
- A Neighbourhood Small Grant from the Bowen Island Community Foundation, Bowen Island Municipality, and the Vancouver Foundation
- Rina Freed of Source Environmental Associates
- An anonymous donor
We also thank the many volunteers who have contributed their time and expertise to this initiative.