Members of Squamish Nation shared songs, stories and their history with VCH-Coastal staff.

Growing Up Squamish: Participants’ experience

Coastal staff from across all departments joined members of the Aboriginal Health team to spend the day at the longhouse at Squamish Nation last week to learn about and experience First people’s culture and traditions. The day started with a welcome and a delicious lunch of Bannock Tacos.

Chief Ian Campbell

The afternoon was dedicated to hearing stories of personal experiences from Elders and Chief Ian Campbell on residential schools, of the land and the successes as well as the struggles to heal and improve their health and well-being.

Other members of Chief Ian’s family shared cultural stories and songs that have been passed from generation to generation. Many staff shared their feedback about the day.

Karin Olson, Chief Operating Officer: “It was an honour to be invited into the Squamish First Nation’s home and to have Chief Ian Campbell and other members of his family share their music and stories related to Squamish history and resilience. In particular, I witnessed the immense pride of the Squamish peoples regarding the building of the longhouse and how this building, and in affiliation with the Elders (who hold the language and history) have provided a healing and a centeredness that is critical to this community.  I hope that we have more opportunities in the future to continue the conversations, develop appreciation of how to be culturally aware and create a respectful and safe environment for everyone when they need health care.”

Shelagh Smith, interim Manager, Mental Health & Addictions: “It was a full and satisfying day – spiritually, intellectually and physically (the food was amazing). I so appreciated being invited in to witness. Chief Ian Campbell speaks so well and I appreciated him and each of the ‘presenters’.  I liked the intertwining of themes – humour, joy (play on words, teasing) and strength of the community with the serious references to impact of residential schools and the reconciliation process. The day was well thought out. I loved that the focus was on wellness and the strength of the communities.”

Sacha Kennedy, Communications Lead: “It was a very powerful experience to hear firsthand from some of our treasured neighbours about their history – the good and bad – and how they want to move towards reconciliation.  I will carry these stories with me forever. This is important work and I have shared my experience with my colleagues and family.”

Marina McBride, Rural Leader: “I was profoundly humbled to be at the Growing up Squamish day. I felt welcomed into a sacred space with generosity and openness. I was riveted by the stories and the language and grew a greater appreciation of the sacred ‘truths’ that make up our history and perspectives on others and ourselves. It was so encouraging to start the day focusing on the wellness of the community, on the revitalization of language, canoe lore and travel, traditional names for places we take for granted, on the humor and inclusion of our hosts welcoming us into their home, territory and history.”

Terry Bulych, Child & Youth Mental Health & Addictions Services: “This event felt different because of the long house, the storytelling, the singing and dancing  in a very positive way.  For perhaps the first time in 10 years working for VCH on the North Shore, I felt the joy of the Squamish people, in how pleased they were that we came.   I hope this was one of a series of similar events, as there was time to make introductions and begin to build important relationships for future development.”

Anne Moonan-Woods, Manager, Residential Care: “I enjoyed listening to all the rich stories and it was very touching to be able to be part of the First Nations culture through the storytelling. As a manager I feel that I have more insight in how to work with the First Nation’s employees. ‎I am always amazed by their pure dedication to the care of seniors in complex residential care. Some of the First Nation’s staff are very vocal in letting me know that the facility requires more staff. After this session I realize that I need to change my approach when they communicate this concern with me. I need to change my way of listening and sharing information so that they feel their concerns have been heard.”

Rev. Andres Rebane, Spiritual Care Advisor, LGH: “The event was informative. I really enjoyed the setting for the event and thank you for every one of the presenters.  Thank you for sharing the food.”


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