“My name is Ashlee ‘Blossoming out girl’ Cooper. I am from the Tsartlip First Nations. Willow is important to me. SX̱ ELE,IȽĆ is a very valued and sacred tree for the WSÁNEĆ because of all of its uses. It is medicine for the body, and the mind because it helps you connect to the land and waters. I have used its bark for medicine, cordage/rope, and as a great root stimulant for other plants in my garden. This project had assured my role as land steward for my community and has taught me the importance of caring for our delicate Eco systems in WSÁNEĆ.”
— Ashlee Cooper, Eco-cultural Language Apprentice
Reclaiming ȾIKEL, is an eco-cultural restoration project for a band operated school located in WSÁNEĆ, a First Nations community just north of Victoria B.C. Canada. The SENĆOŦEN word ȾIKEL can be translated to “bog” but as a place name, it encompassed a main wetland of WSÁNEĆ, the homeland of the WSÁNEĆ people. Prior to colonization, it was said to be a bountiful area for collecting foods, medicines and materials. One of the plants that would have flourished here is SX̱ ELE,IȽĆ (Pacific Willow), a traditionally important plant for WSÁNEĆ people; the inner bark was used as the primary fibre for the making of reef-nets. SXEOLE is the name of the reef-net technology used by WSÁNEĆ people to catch salmon in the straits of the Salish Sea. This ½ acre teaching/learning site will host children from pre-school through high school and will actively reclaim the land through restoration efforts.