A free concert is slated for the afternoon of Sept. 29 at University of the Fraser Valley in Chilliwack for anyone affected by the tragedies at Canadian residential schools.
The Chowiyes-Xwithet/Rise Up-Wake Up! event aims to educate through music provided by Éy St’elmexw St’elt’ílém/Good Medicine Songs. There will be songs, stories and a basket ceremony to honour the “shxweli” or life spirit of the children of residential schools who never made it home, the survivors, and their families.
“The Good Medicine Songs musical ensemble came to be through a partnership between Sqwá (Skwah) First Nation and the Artist Response Team (ART) to create bilingual songs that weave together ecological awareness with Stó:lō language, worldview,” said Holly Arntzen, who founded ART, and is one of the performers.
Coming the day before the Sept. 30 National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as well as Orange Shirt Day, the special UFV event is dedicated to the path of reconciliation, and revitalization of the Halq’eméylem language, which is the upriver dialect of the Stó:lō people.
“The simple act of singing together in Halq’eméylem builds relationships amongst community members to work together for a good future,” Arntzen said.
The unique event came to fruition as a result of several partnerships, including the host UFV.
“The University of the Fraser Valley is honoured to be presenting and hosting this unique and important event in the spirit of healing and transformation for survivors and family members, and all community members affected by the tragedies that took place at Canadian residential schools,” said Joanne MacLean, president and vice-chancellor of UFV.
There will be a basket ceremony which emphasizes the role of Stólō baskets in carrying traditional knowledge.
“The basket ceremony will commemorate the presentation of a special basket from my family to the University, to be placed above the entrance of the Gathering Place,” explained Lolehawk Laura Buker, UFV professor of Indigenous Studies, and executive producer of the concert event. “Let’s travel this road of reconciliation together and always have our children at the centre of health, wellness, happiness, and love.”
The cross-cultural event at UFV’s Gathering Place in Chilliwack will showcase the power of song and storytelling, as well resilience of those trying to keep the traditional language alive.
The spiritual guide for the Good Medicine team has been Siyamiyateliyot Elizabeth Phillips, recipient of the 2022 Indspire Award for culture, heritage and spirituality. The feisty Stólō elder is the last remaining fluent speaker of Halq’eméylem, and she has dedicated her life to preserving the language.
The Good Medicine Songs performers include Stó:lō language and cultural carriers T’it’elem Spath Eddie Gardner, Lolehawk Laura Buker, Xótxwes Jonny Williams, Sulisulwut Bibiana Norris, Lori Kelly (Semá:th) and Xwelitem (“other background”) singer-songwriter/musicians including Holly Arntzen and Kevin Wright of the Wilds Band.
“BC Used Oil Management Association and Tire Stewardship BC are honoured to be partnering on this event with such a talented and inspiring group of artists,” said David Lawes, CEO, BCUOMA, and Rosemary Sutton, executive director, TSBC, in a joint statement. “We have collectively worked with ART for the past decade, and we have seen firsthand how music and storytelling can unite people.”
Across the country, hundreds of local activities are taking place to commemorate the tragic history and legacy of residential schools. The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is a direct response to TRC call to action 80, which called for a federal statutory day of commemoration to be established, which it was in 2021.
Chowiyes-Xwithet/Rise Up-Wake Up! event is Sept. 29, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the University of the Fraser Valley Gathering Place located at 45190 Caen Ave., Chilliwack, B.C. Register through Eventbrite.
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