This year’s festival explored themes related to the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations that hosts us. Programming focussed on taking the audience out of merely appreciating finished carved pieces and into the land and ecosystems that support the growth of the trees used for carving. One of the feature programs was Traditional Canoe Tours with local ecologist Dan Harrison (of the Raincoast Education Society) and Nuu-chah-nulth canoe guides Marika Swan and Tana Thomas for a uniquely integrated traditional paddle and guided walk through the old-growth forest on Wanachis-Hilth-huu-is (aka Meares Island). Gisele Martin, cultural educator and wilderness guide for Raincoast Education Society, explored in her keynote presentation how “Tla-o-qui-aht people and the life force of this land are one. Our Nuu-chah-nulth language reflects our identity and place. The words we speak carve a life of connection, or cut us into colonial wilderness.”
Vickie Jensen gave a talk and slideshow on the late author Hillary Stewart’s legacy to archeological studies in British Columbia, as well as her research and life work that was the basis of her award winning books on Northwest Coast First Nations cultures.
The festival hosted the celebration and unveiling of Weeping Cedar Woman at its new permanent location in Tofino’s Village Green. The 22-foot wood carving from 1984 by artist Godfrey Stephens was returned to Tofino as a public art acquisition. Weeping Cedar Woman was carved to aid the protest of logging the ancient rainforests of Clayoquot Sound.
Also featured was the Nuu-chah-nulth Living Archive project, a community archival project that collects documentation of Nuu-chah-nulth carved items that are being held in museums across the world. Ecological perspectives from Raincoast Education Society complimented and enhanced our cultural teachings. This brought in new audiences to the festival and built interesting cultural bridges that we can see will grow and develop in the future. Tla-o-qui-aht master canoe carver Joe Martin introduced the traditional teachings and uses of the Nuu-chah-nulth bentwood box through hands-on workshops.
The educators at the Raincoast Field School were able to develop their yearly content with the students from K-7 at Wickaninnish Elementary School. Students were given immersive cultural and ecological field trips with some focused directly on Old Growth stewardship. Through our canoe tours, we were able to develop a dynamic and interactive aspect to our programming. Taking guests out of the festival venue and into the forest that nurtures the carving arts connected our audience with the key messages of the project.
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