As a Quw’utsun Sleni (Cowichan Woman), I have spent a lifetime grappling, journeying, and navigating the bureaucracies of policy, and the great limitations imposed under the Indian Act and the layering of different government policies. As a Quw’utsun Sleni, it is a necessity to be multifaceted in housing, lands, child and family services, health, government, education, economic development, and justice while also embracing healing and self-determination through re-claiming identity, language, culture, songs, dance, and self. Many people praise my path of obtaining a Bachelor of Business Administration, Certificate in First Nations Housing Management, and a Masters of Community Planning, while also being a mother, living on my own, starting my own consulting business, and continuing my career trajectory.
Despite my external achievements, my greatest journey has been striving toward being happy, humble, and “living a good life.” The construct of “living a good life” is rooted in the Quw’utsun worldview, snuw’uy’ulh, protocol, ceremony and the teachings passed down from our Ancestors. As a Quw’utsun Sleni, I have been honoured with the opportunity to live, learn, and/or spend a significant amount of time with my grandparents. My grandparents act as pillars or guideposts of everything that I do, and the core teachings shared with me, and that I hold closely are:
• Being present
• Greeting the day with gratitude
• Treating everyone with respect
• Embracing change
• Moving forward
My journey thus far has been greatly influenced by their presence in my life, and their on-going and continuous love and support both personally and professionally. Although they are in the spirit world, I still carry their words closely in my heart. At times, I hear echoes of their words from other Knowledge Keepers, Elders, or see tokens and symbols that trigger my memories. This affirms my on-going connection to spirit.
From the onset, my grandparents instilled the importance of going to school, pursuing further education, working, and raising my son. Initially, I struggled to see the importance and value of pursuing an education, because I recognized the legacy, history and on-going atrocities of colonization, cultural genocide, and assimilation. However, as Murray Sinclair stated, “education is what got us here and education is what will get us out” (Hilton, 2020). As I continue my journey in unravelling the truth, the history, and the stories, I am confronted by an on-going and an internal conflict of reconciling myself, my family, my community, and my nation.