Spe pu c’n: Ancestral Memories Embodied

In 2014 I began the final year of my undergrad. I started looking at specific areas of my family lineage and discovered my Syilx roots were actually Southern Interior Plateau roots. Since that time I have been tracing the blood memory within my very own veins, following the landscape of familial relation and inter tribal governance.

Since I began opening my eyes to the importance of researching the North Okanagan Syilx heritage as method and pedagogy, I have been having visions of me in specific implements. There are none other like them. Specially hand crafted from the research, dreams and visions of a true Recovery Artist.  This canoe became known to me only after seeing a Tule Mat lodge like my grandmother Mary Abel story tells about, a special place where the Chief gathered the people. Through a student initiative at UBCO called Tuum Est, I invited Shawn Brigman to construct his Tule Mat lodge interpretation on campus. The very construction was an act of performed resistance as it was the first time a complete Chief’s lodge was constructed in the north Okanagan near our kikanee fishing site at the university.  These fine art implements enable a polished contemporary look to an age old story of a syilx woman retracing the layers of landscapes, walking the blood ties through village site to village site.

This journey carried me from Spences Bridge and my grandfather Edward Fred’s mothers family and introduced me to Spe pu c’n: Their Voices Echo Across the Land. I called out looking for those whose voices still carry and I found they echo in the contemporary skin of a signature Salishan Sturgeon Nose Canoe.

In this Performed Happening, I brought together a small group; photographer to document and canoe maker to witness the journey of The Dreamer, a Siwash – halfbreed raised by her Syilx Mother and French Father in a traditional ancestral home, next door to my stemtima (grandmother )Mary Abel and great grandfather Joseph Abel. I recall being a companion of my grandmother as a pre-teen and teen. We would drive down the Okanagan Trail from North Lakes around through the permanent village sites: Okanogan, Kettle Falls, Spokane.

I remembered visiting with my stemtima in American places when listening to stories by my friend Shawn about the ones he researched in his doctoral research. I told him what I had dreamed of, this place on the river that I had to go. I could only describe the landscape when I was reminded of the vision I had of myself in a canoe and from there he took me here, this place where the photos were taken. It was there that the Okanagan Anthem, a song that speaks to the beauty of the Syilx people coming from the beauty of the land, made itself alive in the vibration of my voice. My song voice had been hiding in shame until that summer. Earlier in July I had a spiritual experience in the pit house at Komasket. Our now passed mentor Caroline Kenny engaged us in a resonance exercise and Manulani Meyer had us sing in braided harmonics her personal Oli. It was through these vocal experiences my voice felt free to find itself in the middle of the Spokane River. It was recorded only in these photos.


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