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Giving Back: Decolonizing Lekwungen Landscapes Invasive Plant Pull

April 11, 2019

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The Community Tool Shed hosted an invasive plant species pull on the Songhees Nation near the Songhees Wellness Building. Cheryl Bryce (an Ethnobotanist and Songhees Member) and Jeff Corntassle (an Indigenous Studies professor from the University of Victoria) guided us on what and where to pull, and no experience was necessary. We identified and removed invasive plant species (Ivy and the Himalayan Blackberry) along with many University of Victoria students and professors on Sunday, April 7th. There will be another Community Tool Shed event hosted on May 5th from 12-4pm, everyone will meet at the Songhees Wellness Building. Join us if you want to Decolonize the Lekwungen Landscape too!

Learn more about Decolonizing Landscapes here.

Animikii: Why did you decide to attend the Decolonize the Lekwungen Landscape event?

Jeff: At Animikii we write annual goals that we call our Authentic Accountability Agreement and all relate to one or more of our seven core values (Love, Wisdom, Humility, Truth, Honesty, Courage, Respect). Pulling invasives with the Community Tool Shed was part of my goals that represented Respect. I wanted to put into action Respect for the lands that we live and work on and where Animikii is headquartered. We also produced Cheryl’s Decolonize Landscapes challenge when we worked on the Indian Horse film and this was an opportunity to complete that challenge!

Robyn: As an uninvited European settler living and working on the traditional territory of the Lekwungen (Songhees and Esquimalt) Peoples I try to seek opportunities to show gratitude and appreciation by giving back to the community. Cheryl Bryce lead our team on a Colonial Reality Tour during our Animikii team retreat two years ago. Cheryl explained how colonization continues to disrupt traditional lands and ecosystems. As a respectful guest, I want to learn and care for traditional ecosystems and food systems in meaningful ways.

Animikii: How did you contribute to the event?

Invasive PullJeff: I pulled blackberry bushes with a lopper, shovel and elbow grease :)

Robyn: I removed Ivy and Himalyan Blackberries from Lekwungen land in front of the Songhees Wellness Building with Cheryl Bryce and a team of 24 enthusiastic University of Victoria students and professors.

Animikii: What part of the event did you find the most impactful?

Jeff: The community vibe with over 25+ people who spent their sunny weekend afternoon to come out for this invasives pull was very impactful. There was a good sense of community building in being of service to Lekwungen lands.

Robyn: Hearing that the Community Tool Shed team has successfully cleared Meegan (Beacon Hill) the traditional Lekwungen land harvest ground of all the invasive plants that were disrupting traditional camas growth. Cheryl told us that “camas was a traditional food source and one of the biggest economic resources of these lands. Camas was traded up and down the coast for items like razor clams and oolichan oil. Nations would come from all over to trade.”

Animikii: Why do you think it’s important for Animikii to reach out in this kind of capacity?

Jeff: The site that we did this pull was in front of the Songhees Wellness Building where we work. As I write this now I can see the spot where we worked on where there are no invasives anymore. It was one small way to give back to the Songhees Nation who graciously welcomed us to work in their community.

Robyn: Animikii is an Indigenous Technology company and our headquarters prosper on the traditional territory of Lekwungen (Songhees) People, at the Songhees Innovation Centre. We are a social enterprise and a B Corp and our entire organization is built around Indigenous values. Indigenous values have always included the relationship with each other and the relationships with the land. As a member of the Animikii team, as a non-Indigenous ally, and a human living on the planet, these values hold importance in every aspect of my life. As an employee, as a team member, as a woman, as a sister, and as a mother trying to role model for my children to express values in every aspect of their lives.

Animikii: Which of the 7 Grandfather Teachings do you think was most expressed at the event?

Jeff: In addition to Respect that I mentioned earlier, I think also Love played a big role in it as well as we love Mother Earth and the community that we live in.

Robyn: Respect, respect for the community, respect for all Lekwungen (Songhees and Esquimalt) Peoples and respect for the land that has been historically disrespected.

April 11, 2019

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