Esk’etemc First Nation (Alkali Lake) Chief Fred Robbins takes part in Secwepemc Health Caucus’s “Raising Our Spirits” ceremony Friday, Jan. 22. (Secwepemc Health Caucus Facebook image)

Esk’etemc First Nation (Alkali Lake) Chief Fred Robbins takes part in Secwepemc Health Caucus’s “Raising Our Spirits” ceremony Friday, Jan. 22. (Secwepemc Health Caucus Facebook image)

Secwepemc Nation raises spirits through song

More than 150 join virtual ceremony

An afternoon of drumming and song was devoted to raising Secwepemc Nation members’ spirits during a time of stress and significant loss caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Today, the prayers we do and the songs that we do are prayers for our people,” Splats’in Chief Wayne Christian said in a virtual ceremony hosted Friday, Jan. 22 by the Secwepemc Health Caucus.

“It’s really important for boosting our heart and our spirit to raise it up, especially for those that have lost loved ones because we can’t gather in our tradition, our custom and our culture to help the family,” he added.

Tsq’escen’emc (Canim Lake Band) is mourning the loss of language speaker and knowledge keeper Ella Gilbert, the community’s first death due to COVID-19.

Christian said it was essential to know and understand that their ancestors would be standing with them as they sang.

“They’re watching and helping as much as they can, and I think it’s up to us to ask for the help that we need not only for the people as a whole but also ourselves because many times in ceremony we forget to ask for help for ourselves,” he said, calling everyone a leader in their own way.

We had 165 of us join together today from across Secwepemcul'ecw and as far as over in Toronto. Kukstéc-kuc, we thank…

Posted by Secwepemc Health Caucus on Friday, January 22, 2021

“So much of what we need to do is within us, within our mind and our heart.”

Among those performing was T’exelcemc (William Lake First Nation) cultural co-ordinator David Archie, who sang Amazing Grace for Gilbert and recently passed T’exelcemc members Byron Louie and Michelle Wycotte.

While the song was dedicated to anyone facing loss and dealing with COVID-19, Archie said it was primarily for Louie and his family.

Mike Archie from Tsq’escen’emc participated by singing the Honour Song.

“I know that my community is hit pretty hard by COVID and there’s a lot of people that are asking for prayers,” he said.

From their home at Cemetem’ (Deep Creek) north of Williams Lake, Cheryl Chapman said while it was good to virtually see everyone, it was hard not to reach out and be able to physically hug them.

Before Chapman joined her partner, Mike Retasket, in singing Remember Me, Retasket said his daughter in Wisconsin was experiencing headaches, fever, chills and body pains that would likely last 24 hours after receiving her second Pfizer vaccine shot.

“There are so many people in our nation to help hold up today and I’m really happy to be able to help out with that work,” Retasket said.

Prior to singing the Horse Song with his son, Tk’emlups (Kamloops), member Garry Gottfriedson explained how the song he sang during his childhood, about family coming together for strength, originated.

Read More: Williams Lake First Nation Chief highlights importance of mental health amid COVID-19 outbreak

“It’s’ really important that we understand that, and we must acknowledge where these songs come from so that we don’t make mistakes in our nation and have to pay the price for it,” he said.

“I think so many times I see how we make a mistake and then we suffer for it, but now is the time to sing this song to bring us all together, so we remember for this little child for his future, for the future of our nation — the Secwepemc Nation.”

Esk’etemc First Nation (Alkali Lake) elder Fred Johnson led a peace song and closing prayer in Secwepemctsin, which Mary Harry wrote they need to hear more often as it is how they learn to speak in their traditional language.

Skeetchestn Chief Ron Ignace advised communities heavily impacted by COVID-19 and needing supplies such as Tsq’escen’emc and T’exelcemc to reach out to other communities who would see how they could help.

Chief Christian reminded Secwepemc Nation members to continue following COVID-19 protocols and be cautious with their interactions.

“COVID doesn’t travel,” he said. “It’s the people that travel.”

Read More: B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday


Do you have a comment about this story? email:
rebecca.dyok@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

First NationsHealth and wellness

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

This Dec. 2, 2020, file photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows vials of the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. (Johnson & Johnson via AP)
Interior Health notes 80 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend

108 people in the region have died from the virus

The Fraser River is seen west of Williams Lake from Doc English Bluff Ecological Reserve. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
Tsilhqot’in National Government appeals Gibraltar Mines’ permit to discharge into Fraser River

Permit amendments fail to adequately protect the environment and human health, says TNG

The Horsefly Community Hall will be the site of a mobile vaccine clinic March 19, 2021. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Six COVID-19 vaccine clinics to open in Cariboo Chilcotin

100 Mile, Alexis Creek, Big Lake, Horsefly, Williams Lake and Tatla Lake

A Williams Lake area family living on Knife Creek Road lost everything to a house fire on Wednesday, March 3. (Photo submitted)
House fire destroys rural family home south of Williams Lake

The Macdonalds built their home on Knife Creek Road about 30 years ago

A special committee has been appointed to look at reforming B.C.’s police act and is inviting the public to make submissions until April 30, 2021. (Black Press media file)
Public input sought for B.C.’s police act review

Submissions will be accepted until April 30

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Montreal Canadiens right wing Paul Byron (41) fights for control of the puck with Vancouver Canucks defenceman Quinn Hughes (43) during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Monday, March 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Captain Clutch: Horvat nets shootout winner as Canucks edge Habs 2-1

Vancouver, Montreal tangle again on Wednesday

Cottonwoods Care Home in Kelowna. (Google Maps)
New COVID-19 outbreak at Kelowna care home includes fully vaccinated seniors: Henry

Two staff and 10 residents tested positive at Cottonwoods Care Centre

Excerpts from a conversation between Bria Fisher and the fake truLOCAL job. Fisher had signed a job agreement and was prepared to start work for what she thought was truLOCAL before she learned it was a scam. (Contributed)
B.C. woman warning others after losing $3,000 in job scam

Bria Fisher was hired by what she thought was a Canadian company, only to be out thousands

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix provide a regular update on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, March 2, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 cases: 545 Saturday, 532 Sunday, 385 Monday

Focus on Prince Rupert, Lower Mainland large workplaces

Rising accident rates and payout costs have contributed to billion-dollar deficits at ICBC. (Comox Valley Record)
B.C. appealing decision keeping ICBC injury cases in court

David Eby vows to ‘clip wings’ of personal injury lawyers

(Black Press Media files)
Hosts charged, attendees facing COVID fines after Vancouver police bust party at condo

Police had previously received 10 complaints about that condo

Most Read