Library month celebrates Indigenous people, culture in Parksville

Vancouver Island Regional Library showcasing culture of many Nations during October

The Parksville Library was home to song, story and history sharing on Tuesday afternoon as two Vancouver Island University employees from two First Nations shared their culture.

Georgina Martin is a professor at Vancouver Island University, and Fred Speck works alongside her as a cultural technician. Martin’s ancestry is Secwepemc (Shuswap), and Speck is Tlowitsis from Turner Island and Gwawaenuk. Together the two form a dynamic duo – Martin brings a serious, academic approach to the table, while Speck offers a playful approach to education and story sharing.

Both Martin and Speck introduced themselves and spoke in their languages. Speck gave an introduction in Kwak’wala and Martin read a poem in Secwepemc.

READ MORE: Calls for a new kind of popcorn movie: ‘We need Indigenous people in space’

The two covered a variety of topics over the hour of the presentation. Martin spoke about her family history, about having been born in a segregated “Indian Hospital” and having attended residential schools. She spoke about the delicate balance needed in educating people about these topics – they are difficult and heavy subjects, and in order to facilitate learning and sharing the presentation of facts needs to be done delicately so people do not shut down.

Despite the difficulty, Martin says it’s important to share stories so that the wider Canadian culture can understand the experiences and lived truth of Indigenous peoples, and be considered as equals in Canadian society.

“We’re still alive and well … we’ve survived, and we’re quite resilient people, and now we’re in a period of reclamation,” said Martin.

In the era of truth and reconciliation, she stressed the aspect of truth must come first, before meaningful reconciliation can happen.

“In order to be able to get to that point, we have to be able to walk alongside others, and we need to be recognized as a people. And for people to understand, we have to be on equal footing before we can even talk about reconciliation,” said Martin.

READ MORE: Google Earth features B.C. Indigenous language in new audio series

One of the things the two stressed was the fact not all First Nations are the same. There are a variety of different cultures and customs that vary between the distinct nations across B.C. and Canada.

Speck also spoke to the importance of getting people together to share stories in order to build understanding and community.

“Over history, I think there’s been a lost opportunity with the history that we’ve had with colonial repressed policies… it hadn’t given us the space to be able to share, and to have that kind of community,” said Speck.

“I think that’s why it’s so important to be able to share, and to be able to learn about each other, and we can share differences and commonalities between cultures. And just to build – much stronger – so we can have a much stronger and healthier place to be.”

Speck spoke about his upbringing and education, a blend of traditional knowledge from his family, as well as academic learning.

READ MORE: Indigenous elders share history with Ladysmith students

The two spoke about the ways music is created in First Nations culture, where the creation of song is a spiritual process.

Both Martin and Speck brought their hand drums, and shared songs in the library. Speck sang the song of his father and explained the details and symbolism of the artwork on his vest, which showed a butterfly, wolf and thunderbird.

Martin sang a woman’s warrior song. Their voices filled the library space and drew curious onlookers. The songs had a way of transcending the fluorescent lights of the library setting, bringing the audience to a deeper place of reflection.

The presentation was part of Library Month at the Vancouver Island Regional Library, the goal of which is to shine light on Indigenous cultures and experiences.

For more information about similar events around the mid-Island, head to www.virl.bc.ca

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