The Big House beside me in the cover photo shows the distinct style of our roof which is slanted one way. This is a distinct Coast Salish style Big House.
On September 24, 2016, I was given my traditional name through an outdoor ceremony in my community, T'Sou-ke. I am so grateful to all that supported us at the ceremony and throughout the year as we prepared for it. It was a wonderful day. I've learned so much more about my Pacheedaht and Salish heritage through the process. I will carry my name, TA LIAIS, in a way that honours my past elders who carried it before me. To live a life that practices love and respect to others, my culture and myself.
I love drumming, singing, and dancing with my family as a member of the Sia-o-sun dancers. We have had the honour of dancing hundreds of times at different gatherings.
In the summer of 2017 we went on a dance tour through Europe. We danced in some big cities and little villages in Germany, Slovakia, Czech Republic, and Hungary. It was exciting to meet new people and see more of the world.
To wear these things and to dance is a scared honour and as a dancer I have the responsibility to take care of myself in all seasons of the year. As a T'Sou-ke woman I also have the cultural tradition to play my drum and sing with my family. I made my drum from deer hide and wood. Before I was able to keep this drum I made several others that I gave away. This is one of our cultural protocols; before we keep something we have made like a drum, woven baskets, headbands, carvings, etc, we must give at least one away to someone special to us.
Dancers, singers and drummers are representing their family and nation on and off of the 'dance floor'. The 'floor' itself is a scared space whether it be indoors or outdoors. When a Coast Salish person (and many other First Nations) introduce ourselves at cultural gatherings we do it by naming our immediate family and our extended family, including their traditional names. This demonstrates our relational connection to the Nation and our visiting Nations.We have a beautiful story about T'Sou-ke women created from the Arbutus tree. The Arbutus tree sheds its twisted bark which allows it to grow and thrive in rocky environments. Its strength lies in its deep roots and strong inner core. Its ability to shed and be fed nutrients from its centre. We can also nurture ourselves from within. For me, the teachings from the Arbutus tree provide the foundation for nurturing the spirit and the body.
Breathing~ Taking a few deep slow breaths is an immediate way to calm down and shift our energy. I use this one a lot before I dance or prepare for Canoe Journeys. Changing our breathing to be deep and slow sends a message to our brains that we are safe. It changes our whole physiology. Smudging, praying and meditating all incorporate calm breathing and bring good feelings to a person. In T'Sou-ke our spiritual leader Shirley Alphonse uses an eagle feather to 'smudge' us. She uses the feather to move the smoke from sage and sweet grass around our bodies as a way to cleanse and protect us, this is 'smudge' in our nation.
Exercising~ Exercising regularly helps me to be ready for the next paddling or dance opportunity that can up at anytime. When I run it feels like I am casting off all of the tension in my life. It feels like I am releasing the load that I am carrying back into the earth so that I am more at peace and a stronger support for my family and community. Completing a triathlon was one of the greatest feelings I have had in my life.
Sharing~ Sharing is one of the best ways I know to take care of myself because it fills me with happiness. Sharing our time and energy has many forms: paddling, drumming, crafts and preparing and enjoying a meal together are a few. "Of all the teachings we receive this one is the most important: Nothing belongs to you of what there is, of that what you take, you must share." ~ Chief Dan George
Laughing~ Laughing helps strengthen our immune systems by releasing oxygen through our bodies. Smiling or laughing for even a short time can change our emotions to happiness instantly.
Creating~ Our creative energy is one of our greatest gifts. I believe to be in a creative state of mind is an example of being our best selves. There are so many ways to be creative: making music, art work, cooking, writing, sewing, carving and beading are a few. In T'Sou-ke we are very creative; we sing, dance, drum, compose songs, weave, carve, draw and paint. Imagining and remembering things that make us happy are other ways to get into the creative mind set.
A picture of me in my blue dance shawl. I am wearing a cedar head band that my auntie made for me along time ago. It is hard to see but I wear the tie in the front and sometimes the tie an a shell in the front because I come from a Chief's house. This is our cultural tradition. In the second picture I am wearing my first shawl so it is much plainer.