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Kwekwecnewtxw erected on Burnaby Mountain

Rita Wong

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a living tendril grows

moving mycorrhizally, i gently pull a rooted thread and find the Tsleil-Waututh Sacred Trust stewarding these lands and waters where their ancestors have lived for many thousands of years

thousands of years of oceanic abundance and continuous sturgeon, smelts, salmon, eulachon, clams, crabs, cod, orca whales, porpoises, herring, snapper, sea urchins, flounder, sole, seals, cedars, salal, wolves, elk, ducks, geese, grebes, swans, and so much more, in dense interrelations where people understood themselves as part of the lands & waters that fed and nourished them in all the needed ways1

thousands of years of tidal rhythms giving rise to the people of the inlet; the rush of winds and the sounds of ceremony, season after season after season; moon rise and moon fall; sun, rain, snow, and all the moods of the water; millennia of moss, medicines and reciprocity for what the earth gifts

thousands of years of concerted life, interrupted by clearcuts, resource extraction, invasion, police and churches stealing children, attacks on the very spirit of this land and its peoples

tug on a stand of cedars, now missing from what is called “downtown vancouver,” its rhizome reveals both immense loss and the steady strength of those who remain, vitally holding up and renewing the ancestors specific to this place, still sacred

I stumble along these shores after so much desecration, listening for Lee Maracle’s teachings; hearing Ta’ah say, it’s time to warrior up; grateful for the tenacious wisdom of the Sacred Trust, doing the environmental research that colonial governments have failed to do, demonstrating the due diligence that future generations and past generations deserve, kicking out Kinder Morgan in 2018 only for corporate-held Canada to take its place in the colonial violence that has caused the climate crisis that is 500+ years in the making

thousands gathered on the mountain in 2018, building Kwekwecnewtxw, reviving the practice of Coast Salish watch houses, showing how unjust colonial laws are, how disconnected injunctions are from the earth’s ecological budget, how they use police force to violate Indigenous law. hummingbirds nest, delaying climate ransackers, Trans Mountain, from tearing down forests we needed,2 enforced by RCMP’s militarized Community-Industry Response Group, struck in 2017 to surveil and criminalize those who dare to remember and assert that healing the people requires healing the land3

Coast Salish presence orients us all toward healthier ways to be in relation with each other and the land, whether it’s in the necessary refusal of deadly fossil fuel pipeline expansion, the words of Chief Dan George in My Heart Soars (1974) and My Spirit Soars (1983), his Lament for Confederation (1967), the beautiful work of Ut’sam (1997–2007) making connections between the Roundhouse Community Centre & wild spirit places of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh people,4 the principled stand that Musqueam people took with c̓əsnaʔəm,5 sisters and aunties at the women’s memorial march every Valentine’s day to mourn and honour the murdered and missing loved ones, Indigenous plant diva Tʼuyʼtʼtanat-Cease Wyss & Anne Riley’s constellation of remediation,6 and so much more. These are just a few of the mycorrhizal relations sitting in good companionship with the Tsleil-Waututh Nation Sacred Trust, who you might glimpse through the shore restoration at Maplewood Flats, lengthy research reports that restore memory and address shifting baseline syndrome (a term enlivened by the ocean’s whistleblower, Daniel Pauly), canoe ceremonies, Takaya’s cultural tours7, and more may the union of the living prevail

Rita Wong

Rita Wong lives and works on unceded Coast Salish territories, also known as Vancouver, where she attends to questions of water justice, decolonization, ecology, and climate justice. Co-editor of the anthology Downstream: Reimagining Water with Dorothy Christian, Wong is the author of several books of poetry—current, climate; beholden (with Fred Wah), undercurrent, perpetual (with Cindy Mochizuki), sybil unrest (with Larissa Lai), forage (awarded the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize and Canada Reads Poetry 2011), and monkeypuzzle.


1 See the Tsleil-Waututh Nation's 2002 report "Recent Research on Cumulative Effects in Tsleil-Waututh Territory."

2 See Leyland Cecco, "Hummingbirds Succeed in Halting Controversial Pipeline Construction," in The Guardian, April 28, 2021. 

3 See Brett Forester, “Behind the Thin Blue Line: Meet a Secretive Arm of the RCMP in B.C.,” in APTN News, June 16, 2022.

4 See Nancy Bleck, Katherine Dodds and Chief Bill Williams, Picturing Transformation: Nexw-áyantsut, Figure 1, Vancouver, 2013.

5 See the 2017 film The City Before the City, directed by Elle-Maija Tailfeathers.

6 See the City of Vancouver's program “A Constellation of Remediation.”

7 See Takaya Tours.