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“Not Extinct: Keeping the Sinixt Way”

Book Review

This book functions as a display of what collectivity, accountability, and resilience mean for Indigenous communities and allies.

Created with a Sinixt mother-and-daughter team at the forefront of the Blood of Life Collective, Marilyn James and Taress Alexis have followed in the footsteps of the late Elders Eva Orr and Alvina Lum to work as matrilineal representatives attempting to restore knowledge of their people’s presence in their ancestral territory, to repatriate and rebury exhumed ancestral remains, and to act as environmental stewards of the land. Combining classic Interior Salish oratory and a playful multimedia approach, the book offers stories to teach others about Sinixt laws, culture, language, history, and responsibility to the land.

Stories are the heart of the book, with each chapter beginning with a creation or protocol story. As the significance of stories relies on the audience’s understanding of specific cultural contexts, James and Alexis provide insights into perspectives and impacts of these stories on the lives of historical and contemporary Sinixt people, supporting their listeners by explicating history and social norms. Each chapter is closed by a settler member of the Collective reflecting on what these stories mean to their lives. These differing perspectives, accompanied by impactful and diverse illustrations (completed by 17 regional artists), provide the reader many opportunities and ways to engage with the subject matter.

I don’t tell any stories other than Sinixt stories and I have always felt a responsibility to tell certain stories as a Sinixt person.”

~Marilyn James

There is also an online audio version that offers full stories, which is available for download for anyone who purchases the book (I borrowed mine from the library so didn’t have access to it at the time of writing this review). Given the oral nature of Indigenous storytelling (and the fact that the stories represented in the book are brief summaries), this is an important aspect of not only the book but an honouring of tradition and power in story.

Ideas discussed throughout the chapters include the Columbia River Treaty and its impact on the region and Sinixt power, responsibilities of people who live in relationship with the land, archaeology in the region, the role of women and family structures in society, and basic daily conduct. A trend throughout many chapters is the call for all people to recognize that it is not only up to or for Indigenous people to have relationships with the land. Settlers, visitors, and newcomers alike are recognized as responsible for good conduct and accountability to the land and community. This is beautifully modelled in the collaborative nature of the book itself.

Also included in the book are a glossary of Sinixt words (Salish Interior) and phonetics for pronunciation, a glossary of English terms common to Indigenous communities and the government, biographies of all contributors, methods of collaboration on the book, and a powerful introduction by Marilyn James to set the tone of the book.

All in all, this is an accessible read for anyone seeking to learn more about Sinixt culture, the history of the region, and colonialism. In fact, one of the many reasons for creating this book was to provide community-made resources for teachers in the K-12 system who were interested in incorporating Sinixt culture and history in their cirriculum. There is also much to offer for seasoned veterans of the field of study, as the nuanced perspectives brought forward continue to validate the power of Indigenous communities and cultures. As a reader, I walked away awestruck by the resiliency of a Nation that the government, industry, and development has tried to drive to extinction for more than a century.

Though you could read this book quite quickly – like I said, its very accessible – I would highly suggest taking the opportunity to consider how these stories and perspectives impact your own life and conduct, as well as what you could do to use this to support Sinixt sovereignty and existence. Over time, this would be an excellent book for re-reading, as what we take away from stories will change over time with you.

| Chantelle Spicer, Editor |

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Studio Arts Students Win Right to Carry on Their Education

Acknowledging the vitality of the arts community in the Kootenays, Selkirk College offers various educational pathways in a variety of arts. This includes Kootenay Studio Arts (KSA) Certificate and Diploma programs that features pathways in Jewelry, Textiles, Ceramics or Sculptural Metal and enhancement of other creative skills with course offerings in academic, digital media and self-directed studio practice. There are also opportunities for graduates of the Diploma program to bridge to Emily Carr University of Art + Design.

However, following years of low enrolment and high costs of programming, College administrators decided in the fall of 2018 to discontinue the Diploma. Beginning September 2019 the College will only offer the one year Certificate program.

This came as news to a number of students completing their 2018-19 year with plans to continue on in their studies through the Diploma program, particularly after being told they did not need to register for the full Diploma program at the beginning of term.

“We found out through an email that they wouldn’t be allowed to apply for our next term as it wouldn’t be running,” explains Marcia Ticheler, a student within the Jewelry stream of the KSA Diploma program. “It was part of a mass communication failure that affect our plans as students.”

Through talking with other students within the program, she found out that the Metal studio students had learned of the change months in advance and had already successfully advocated with the College to complete their program. With this knowledge, the students created a petition and mission statement that current cohort would be able to continue their plans to complete the Diploma. Signatures of the minimum number required to continue the program were attained.

“We had our concerns, our petition, and the fact that the metal students got their second year,” Tichler explained.

However, when KSA students met with program Chair, Daryl Jolly, they felt their concerns are heard; however, due to administrative decisions and budget restrictions, there was no chance to continue running the program. The students persisted in their self-advocacy, scheduling further meetings with KSA administrators that continued to offer no definitive answer on what could be done to meet the concerns of students.

The students reached out to advocates within the Selkirk College Students’ Union to provide support during the Selkirk Education Council in their meeting on April 17. During this meeting, students were pleased to support from KSA administrators – Patricia Biddart and Jolly had reviewed the upcoming budget to arrange for continuation of the program. During the meeting, members of the Education Council voted to amend the program changes to grandfather current students, fermenting student victory and the right to continue their program.

“We were all so happy and impressed with how hard they fought for us,” Tichler states. “Through this process all of our professors were really supportive and hoping to do the second year with us.”

For the student advocate within the Selkirk College Students’ Union, the self advocacy shown by the students was important.

“I was proud. The students did a good job of organising themselves and did it very quickly and efficiently.  The commitment to their vision of being able to complete their program was really amazing and drove home their success.”

All parties were pleased at how rapidly the College and Education Council were able to respond to the situation.

““It can sometimes take years to get this kind of matter resolved with the institution,” stated the Students’ Union advocate. “I don’t often get to see student success like this.”

Tichler states students should not be daunted to advocate for themselves and peers when they recognize unfairness in their program or any aspect of their educational experience.

“It doesn’t take as much energy as you think to advocate for yourself – you are never alone – your professors want you to succeed, as do your classmates. You are never as alone as you might feel in this.” 

Students of all pathways of the Kootenay Studio Arts programs will be taking part in a year end show case and sale June 21 & 22 at the Victoria Street campus in Nelson.

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A Timely Reflection

Book Review: White Fang

| Chantelle Spicer | With the end of term comes the ability to read for pleasure again. There is nothing more pleasurable and comfortinf for me than returning to some of my favourite literature from childhood. First on the list this spring was White Fang by Jack London. I loved this book so much as a child for it’s great story about a wolf; however, as an adult, I am able to see it from so many different angles, deepening my love and appreciation of this classic. This book is especially relevant for me given recent news about wolf culls due to what are seen as predatory stressors on declining caribou populations. First published in 1906, White Fang examines an environment, set of ethics, and lifestyle very different from the Victorian upbringing that Jack London and his readership were saturated in at the time. It opened the minds of many minds of that era to not only a different worldview, but also a presented a divergence from classical literature as it was contemporarily known.  

Within the wild and stark beauty of the Canadian Yukon, the reader is transported to a potential freedom that most of us dream of today. In both an economic sense, such as the Gold Rush, and a personal or spiritual sense, through the splendor of the natural world, the characters and reader are allowed to dream of a life which is truly theirs. The main human character of the story, Weedon Scott, is doing exactly this, journeying into the depths of the frozen North, searching for gold to secure a better life. Little does he know, that along the way, he will become, through the eyes of London, the portrayal of the best in humanity. 

The main protagonist of this book is, untraditionally, a wolf-dog, White Fang, born into the wild and introduced into “civilized” human existence through abuse and cruelty as a pit-fighting dog. This kind of existence, shown no kindness whatsoever by his owners, shapes him to be an aggressive and morose animal. When he is nearly killed in a fight against a bull-dog, he is saved, both physically and emotionally, by Scott. White Fang’s transformation from a viscous beast into a loving animal is a marvelous study by London in the transformative power of love, affection, and kindness.  

The underlying themes of this story are elegant and hopeful, driven home by the virtuous spirit of Weedon Scott. At a time when the Gold Rush was introducing European culture to the traditional ways of the people of the Yukon, when humans were trying to shape the existence of nature, we are shown there is hope that kindness can be an influencing factor. Another theme lies in the representation of Nature (capital N!) within London’s writing, which illustrates the pristine beauty as well as the incredible power of the land. While the Industrial Revolution was happening in both the US and Britain during the late 1800s to early 1900s, it was important to for London to point out that “Nature” is a power unto itself and works by rules outside of our own human goals and morals. These types of messages make the story truly timeless outside of its early 20th century setting and are especially relevant to our current relationship with “Nature,” with landscapes having shifted from places to be feared, then domains to be exploited, and finally as regions to be saved.

This reading of the story is particularly timely in conjunction with a current environmental practice occurring within B.C. and Alberta – the wolf cull. The relationship that we have with these animals is incredibly interesting – we revere our companions, the domesticated dogs, while making villains their kin, wolves. This feeling of animosity towards wolves has been a part of humanity’s relationship with nature of centuries – an animosity based in economic fear for farmers, feelings of fear against the wildness of the animals themselves.  

This comes to a head in contemporary society through the unscientific and unethical dilemma of the cull in our Northern lands. The governments of both provinces have declared that the “wolf control program will have to go on for at least a decade, [with] other animals [needing] to be killed” in an effort to protect at risk caribou herds.

In 2015, Deputy Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources, Resource Stewardship Division, Tom Ethier stated that 180 wolves being shot from helicopter in the South Peace and South Selkirk regions during one winter as part of a five year project. The multi-year, immediate action program, with a goal of 1,400 wolves eventually being culled to save dwindling isolated caribou herds, such as the South Selkirk herd, which is the only mountain caribou herd in the world. This population of caribou have seen their numbers drop from the hundreds, to 46 in 2009 and then to 18 in March of this year. 

Ethier stated at the time that “we’re going to be doing this for the next five years. At the end of those five years, we’re going to do that analysis as to whether this effort was worth it.”

Given that the Selkirk herds were listed as locally extinct in January of this year, it seems the death of these animals was in vain. The loss of this caribou population is significant when viewing the animals as ambassadors of the local environment and forestry policy.

Young caribou are kept in a captive pen in Northern BC to protect them from predators such as wolves

Following decline in the forestry industry around 2018, the industry has rebounded, creating jobs and supporting communities. However, the impact on the forests has been an increasingly fractured landscapes. This has a cumulative impact which not only removes habitat, but also disrupts migration patterns and makes herds more susceptible to things such as predation and road collisions. Rather than focus on protection of these areas, the government has focused on a more short-sighted, band-aid view of the situation, which has resulted in a tax-payer funded kill program of one of BC’s most iconic wild animals – wolves.  

At this time, 51 individual scientists, 19 environmental groups, and thousands of citizens have petitioned the provincial government to reform and eliminate this cull. The Valhalla Wilderness Society has proposed a 251,000 hectare protection area which contains critical habitat, which along with the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement and the Endangered Species Act, would take great strides towards properly protecting caribou herds for the long-term.  

In Northern BC, management of caribou, wolves, and the forest has created deep divisions within Northern BC communities. With the forestry industry calling for more supports and protections for the sector’s jobs and Indigenous communities and environmentalists calling for more supports for landscapes under increasing industrial pressures, great strides will need to be made for balanced policy. It will also take a shift in how we understand the issue in that that both industry and caribou require the same thing – mature conifer forests. There is a desperate need to stop pitting workers against the environment, recognizing that evidence-based caribou protection and supports are actually good for sustainable forestry management and jobs.

Also, please go and (re)read White Fang or any other favourite childhood literature – it really was a treat.


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What to Read for Reading Week

| Chantelle Spicer | Spring Break within popular culture has often come to mean parties in the sun, probably too much drinking, and exotic locales, but the reality for many college and university students is a week of time dedicated to study, write papers, and get caught up on reading. This has become so much the trend that many institutions (Selkirk included) now call the week off “Reading Week.”

Hopefully, especially given the rise on awareness of student mental health, students are taking time away from their studies to do something they really enjoy.

For some, this may mean reading for the simple pleasure of story rather than the obligation of a syllabus. For others, it may be part of a New Years resolution to spend more time reading rather than scrolling social media. Regardless, studies show that reading improves one’s ability to empathize, writing skills, and reduces stress.

As we settle into reading week, here are five books that have delighted me over the past year

A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki

I first listened to this as an audiobook while doing housework, but often found myself stopping to listen to the subtle magic that is this story. After two chapters, I had to go out and get this book so I could curl up on the couch and dedicate myself to the story. This book weaves together relationships between author and reader (breaking the 4th wall is so fashionable now!), past and present, humour and sadness, fact and fiction, history and myth. It would be impossible to sum up a narrative that covers everything from Zen Buddhism to feminism in a way that would do justice to the intricacies of Ozeki’s storytelling. Lets just say, if you want reminders of the magic that exist in everyday life, go out and find this book (if you are into audiobooks, the author reads all her own work)! I just finished this book in November and I already can’t wait to sink into it again.

21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act, Bob Joesph

Following a viral article for the CBC in 2016, this book explores the relationship that Indigenous peoples across Canada have with their land, governments, and the economy as defined by legislation. In an age of “reconciliation” (whatever that means to you), this is an important read for anyone seeking to know why and how social inequalities persist for Indigenous communities. Not only identifying problems with the Act, Joseph also explains why Indigenous self-determination would result in a better country for every Canadian. He dissects the complex issues around truth and reconciliation, and clearly demonstrates why learning about the Indian Act’s cruel, enduring legacy is essential for the country to move toward true reconciliation. Though it may seem a heavy topic, it is divided into sections that allow you to easily pick up and put down the book whenever you need to.

WishTree, Katherine Applegate

This is one of those books that is probably for kids, but appeals to adults who are still in touch with a solid sense of childlike wonderment. For those who are interested in a quick (you can probably finish this book in one bath or relaxing afternoon) , but impactful read, this one is for you. The story is based on the cultural phenomenon or understanding of “Wishing Trees,” which are individual trees that are used as places or objects of wishes or offerings depending on the local tradition. The story is narrated by the Tree itself, who observes its neighbourhood goings on, including a Muslim family moving in. This story has a marvellous animal and human cast. Helping Red in the quest for neighbourhood peace is a menagerie of animals that call the tree home and whose interactions add another layer to this story about the pleasures and difficulties of overcoming differences. The book is beautifully illustrated and sure to be enjoyed by almost any audience.

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, David Sedaris

The only author who can make me laugh more than Sedaris is Douglas Adams – I mean laughing out loud on the bus with people looking at me askance. Similar to Ozeki, I highly suggest checking out his audiobooks as he reads all of them, sometimes recorded live on an authors tour, giving real depth and life to each story…which it should as each story is a sarcastically funny, brutally honest, and touching reflection of his life with his family, partner, the art of writing, or medical procedures (these come up quite a bit in his books!). With 26 stories to chose from, this book is great for a quick mental break when you need to gain some perspective and not take things so seriously. Luckily, he is a pretty prolific writer, so if you like this one there is plenty more to indulge in

The Sun and Her Flowers, Rupi Kaur

Poetry is pretty amazing – you don’t have to get invested in a whole story and yet it can still deeply impact you. There are so many poets out there, particularly female poets, who are subverting ideas of poetry imposed on us from high school English – Rupi Kaur is absolutely one of those folks. Following on the heels of her first collection, milk and honey, this book is a celebration of love and healing in all its forms. It is divided into five chapters: wilting, falling, rooting, rising, and blooming.  Each poem is illustrated by the author and is rarely more than 10 lines long, meaning I spend most of my time savouring each line to keep myself from rushing through in my hunger for the next one. Highly suggested for anyone who thinks poetry is too daunting or unrelatable. (also highly suggested is watching her spoken word on youtube – poetry really comes alive when you give it a voice!)

Fifteen Dogs, Andre Alexis

You will never look at dogs the same way again! This is a humorous, elegantly written, and profound novel that explores the “gift” of human reasoning and language when they are bequeathed to a 15 dogs in a veterinary clinic by two Greek Gods in a wager. Sound ridiculous? It absolutely is, but in the best ways. This is a short read (only 160 pages), but very effectively examines what we see as universal truths about human nature by transferring consciousness and conscience to animals. Alexis masterfully dissects the discrepancies in the way humans think and feel, by posing large questions, such as: What is happiness? And what makes a life truly fulfilled? What is the role of love in a good life?

Happy Reading! Have suggestions for books or responses to these? Lets us know at sentineleditor@selkirkstudents.ca


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Podcast Playlist

| Chantelle Spier | Over the last 10 years, podcasts have increasingly become the way we obtain news, share ideas, and explore concepts. Though radio itself seems to be on its way out in many regions, podcasts have spawned new independent broadcasting companies as well as provided a format for established outlets. Here are a few different shows to spark or expand on an interest.

If you are at all curious about the world around you, this is an amazing place to start digging for answers and stories. From technology and architecture to sounds and objects, host and network Radiotopia founder, Roman Mars, explores the life of our designed world, and how it affects us. Since the show’s humble beginnings in 2010, Mars and his staff have been bringing us well-researched and thought-provoking shows—without a single repeat. Since then, the show has gained great notoriety, having 150 million downloads through iTunes.  Not only that, if you enjoy the podcast version of the show, check out the website, where many more stories exist in both audio and article form (https://99percentinvisible.org). Even though the podcast has come a long way, it is still an independently produced show, supported by donations from droves of loyal and loving listeners.

Where to Start: My personal favourite episodes are “Wild Ones Live,” which takes on a topic not often covered by 99PI – the wilderness, and “The Mojave Phone Booth,” the epic story of one man’s relationship with a remote telephone booth. I’m also a huge fan of the episode, “The Revolutionary Post,” which explores the foundations of the US Post in relation to creating America. There is no bad place to start, and the vast archives never feel out-of-date.


The CanadaLand broadcaster presents a variety of podcasts that provide nuanced critiques of Canadian media and politics. Not only do you, as a listener, get a more in-depth examination of an issue, but also an understanding of how we come to understand that issue through media representation. The main show, CanadaLand, hosted by journalist Jesse Brown, is a weekly exploring everything from media coverage of climate change to government actions towards reconciliation (or lack thereof) to how different media outlets cover elections (ie. who owns what media). Other shows include the recent investigative coverage of issues regarding police and violence in Thunder Bay, Ontario and Commons, which is marketed as a politics show for people who hate politics.

Where to start:   Given that these are primarily news shows, listening to the most recent episodes is the most relevant; however, a lot of the topics covered are ongoing issues within Canadian media and politics. I thoroughly enjoyed the Thunder Bay podcast, which was the broadcasters first foray into deeply investigative journalism. The realities for residents of Thunder Bay, particularly Indigenous folks, comes through in the expert storytelling and facts presented. A list of their podcasts can be found at: https://www.canadalandshow.com/podcasts/

Ologies host Alie Ward breathes a lot of life and enthusiasm into a range of scientific fields from biology to anthropology – and some ‘eulogies’ you have never heard of! Each episode is an interview with an individual who is an expert in their field of study, giving “ologists” an opportunity to share their passions, answer listener questions, and provide us an opportunity to explore a topic we have perhaps never thought of. This show is regularly in the Top 10 science podcast downloads – and for good reason. Science and scientific research are often inaccessible to the general public, hidden behind journal paywalls and jargon, so this show is very valuable to increasing public understanding on a range of topics. Don’t be fooled by Alie’s silliness as a host – she is a powerhouse of scientific knowledge and knowledge activism as a correspondent for the CBS series Innovation Nation, and host of “Did I Mention Invention?” on the CW, as well as having written for L.A. Weekly and the Los Angeles Times. 

A major bonus of this show, besides being generally amazing, is that it is entirely funded by listeners through Patreon and merchandise sales. This means not only are there are no ads, but the accountability to listeners is strong with this one.

Where to start: With an extensive backlog, there is no wrong answer here, so don’t be daunted! Recent favourite episodes of mine have included Kalology (beauty standards) – the follow up bonus minis ode to this actually made me cry on the bus its so powerful – Corvid Thanatology (crow funerals – how cool!), and Selenology (study of the moon).

Modern Love is a podcast presented by NPR and the New York Times and offers listeners personal stories about the intricacies of love in today’s world. “Modern Love” is a long-standing column in the NYT and this podcast provides host Meghna Chakrabarti and editor Daniel Jones the opportunity to go deeper, sharing some of the best stories about love today. 

Ranging from familial to intimate partner relationships, each episode is a deeply personal and beautifully reading contributed by a fellow listener and brought to life by a celebrity voice. In a world of increasingly complex personal relationships within technology, this show is a reminder of our humanity within interactions.

Where to start: Some of the episodes are pretty tear-inducing, such as the episode “Learning Humanity from Dogs” (the unconditional love of dogs always makes me cry anyway) read by Ethan Hawke, while others, like the “Hunter-Gatherer Parking Division” read by Jason Alexander, have made me chuckle. Other episodes provide some insight into complex issues, such as “Maddy Just Might Work,” which explores the complexity of coming out as a transgender parent.

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Poetry as Revolution

“Poetry is the lifeblood of rebellion, revolution, and the raising of consciousness.” ~Alice Walker

A major challenge in starting and maintaining social movements—political, environmental, humanitarian, or any combination thereof—is engaging people to get involved, as well as staying motivated. Successful social activism rests on the ability to provoke people’s perceptions, thoughts, and actions in positive and innovative ways. By joining with artistic and activist communities, social movements are able to overcome many adversities. The issue is given the ability to create a new visual landscape and language, form new collective identities, and redefine meaningful citizenship.

This collaborative endeavour has a long history and bright future of success in furthering the general awareness of controversial issues. Ranging from fine arts to street arts, poets and musicians, artists are inspired to create something beautiful and moving by social injustice, natural degradation, and the other harsh realities of our contemporary existence. Coupled with the power of the political and scientific voice behind most activist movements, art provides a new way to encourage the public to participate.

Art has been a way for humanity to express individual and community identity, articulating who we are, where we come from, and where we are going. In today’s social environment, this kind of expression has an indisputable place in social activism. Using the many aspects of the arts allows for emotional connection, and also provides a new way to transmit information, ideology, and communication, reduce fear or anxiety, or provide a rallying point of solidarity. It is powerful.

Poetry in particular has long been the voice of revolutionaries, change-makers, and social activists.  

Below are submissions from two Selkirk student poets challenging perceptions of the status quo:

Waterway| Sue Skidmore, 2018 |
I saw you and called you a waterway,
Must be navigable, the definition says.
You look so still, sealed over with shocking lime duckweed,
hiding your small surface.
What navigates you?
The ducks kick through and over you, as your covering of choked plant-life
splits then reforms as they pass.
The beaver from down the way visits you
And splashes through you in the dark while no one sees.
Insects, frogs, snails, animals that I could never know thrive within you.
But you are very very small.  I cannot navigate you.
You are not a waterway.


This poem was part of an assignment for a poetry workshop which Fred Wah gave recently in Nelson, the topic being ‘Waterways’. 

Record Low 1 |Jane Anon|
The troubles intensify,
Inexact and messy
Struggles,
Fought among
Esteemed people
Bottlenecks of
Narrow minds,
Choking debate
Civility voted out
Widening the
Wildly tracked
Differential of
Critical thought. 



Waterway

 

Waterway

I saw you and called you a waterway,

Must be navigable, the definition says.

You look so still, sealed over with shocking lime duckweed,

hiding your small surface.

What navigates you?

The ducks kick through and over you, as your covering of choked plant-life

splits then reforms as they pass.

The beaver from down the way visits you

And splashes through you in the dark while no one sees.

Insects, frogs, snails, animals that I could never know thrive within you.

But you are very very small.  I cannot navigate you.

You are not a waterway.

 

Sue Skidmore Sept. 2018

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FEATURE: Kootenay Studio Arts – Jewelry

Kootenay Studio Arts (KSA) at Selkirk College’s Victoria Street campus will be putting on it’s annual Year End Show and Sale on June 22nd and 23rd this year.