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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw–forests relationships : the forests are our cupboards; the ocean is our refrigerator Lyall, Andrea Joan


This research is centred on people-forest relationships that describe social aspects of forests’ significance to communities within the Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw (the Kwak̓wala-speaking peoples) on the mid-coast of present-day British Columbia, Canada. Forests have always surrounded the Ḵwiḵwa̱sut’inux̱w Ha̱xwa’mis. As a result, forests are integral to peoplehood through oral histories, Indigenous stories, Indigenous language, forest practices, life cycles, and place-based Indigenous knowledge. The peoplehood model was considered compatible with the relationality found in the people-forest relationships that tie individual people to their respective communities and to wildlife, fish, plants, forests, and oceans. This research was developed using Indigenous methodologies and participatory action research. Consequently, the research questions, topics, and analysis methods were adjusted following group evaluation with community sessions led by myself. Four stand-alone empirical chapters were chosen to complement each other about people-forest relationships and Indigenous stories, Indigenous women’s identities, and forest resources the Ḵwiḵwa̱sut’inux̱w Ha̱xwa’mis depend on, including traditional foods and western red cedar. Even though the Ḵwiḵwa̱sut’inux̱w Ha̱xwa’mis are forced to deal with modern-day issues, we wish to maintain and reassert our identities based on an ancient culture. The findings were, most of all, that the forest-people relationships are about being and remaining in place, by a continuous occupation of the area, with no intention of leaving. The Ḵwiḵwa̱sut’inux̱w Ha̱xwa’mis origin story highlights a living history and the significance of western red cedar to T̓seḵa̱me’, a founding ancestor of the Kwiḵwa̱sut’inux̱w. Importantly, traditional foods were identified as an essential part of the culture that transcends nutritional values; these foods are expected to continue being served at ceremonies despite cumulative barriers to access. There are concerns from the community that our identities have been obscured, our forest practices have been limited, and current policies do not safeguard essential forest resources, including traditional foods and western red cedar. Regardless, families want children to know our cultural heritage (including Indigenous stories, dances, songs, and place names), travel the territories, and learn the Indigenous language, Kwak̓wala. Community-led resurgence projects are underway.

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