Tag Archives: Cowichan Tribes

After years of exploitation, the iconic Cowichan sweater is being protected with a new fair-trade program

Editor’s note: Prior to the colonial era, Coast Salish Peoples used mountain goat wool, dog hair and plant fibres in their woven textiles. Cowichan sweaters were produced after the arrival of sheep and European two-needle and multiple-needle knitting techniques. According to Marianne P. Stopp, The first documented instance of Coast Salish knitting took place at the Sisters of St. Anne Roman Catholic mission in Duncan, in the Tzouhalem district, which opened in 1864.

By Mike Graeme, Indiginews, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The art of knitting Cowichan sweaters has been in Zena Roland’s family for generations.

Her grandmother knit sweaters for the likes of Bing Crosby — and Roland herself has been practicing the craft almost her entire life, for more than 50 years.

But although the Cowichan sweater has become an iconic symbol of the West Coast, cultural appropriation and the exploitation of artisans has made the craft unsustainable for many knitters who need to make a living.

“We weren’t getting a good price for a while and it wasn’t worth doing,” Roland said.

Now, Roland is part of a group of Coast Salish knitters who are reclaiming their work crafting Cowichan sweaters, with a new initiative that pushes back against the unfair wages and design theft that has stifled their practice for decades.

Continue reading After years of exploitation, the iconic Cowichan sweater is being protected with a new fair-trade program

Saving the Cowichan Estuary from drowning in a climate-fed ‘coastal squeeze’

Canada’s National Observer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

High atop a dike hemming the Koksilah River as its fresh waters meet salt, red-winged blackbirds call out as they patrol their territory.

Noisy heralds of spring, the blackbirds return to the Cowichan Estuary each year to nest and protest human intrusion with sharp signature trills from the brush along the riverbank.

Today the interloper is Tom Reid, conservation land management program manager with the Nature Trust of British Columbia (NTBC), who stands atop the 15-foot-high rock embankment he is working to destroy.

The dike, built to fortify farmland stolen from the estuary, is stifling the tidal marsh vital to the survival of a host of endangered salmon and bird species that rely on it for breeding, feeding and migration, he said.

Continue reading Saving the Cowichan Estuary from drowning in a climate-fed ‘coastal squeeze’

Community rallies for Carsyn Seaweed, as RCMP apologize for ‘miscommunication’ in her case

By Anna McKenzie,  The Discourse, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter.

People gathered outside of an RCMP detachment in Cowichan territories on Friday to demand justice for 15-year-old Carsyn Mackenzie Seaweed, whose sudden passing has rattled the community. 

On May 15, Carsyn was found in “Duncan” in a “semi-conscious state under suspicious circumstances,” according to a statement from police issued Thursday. Family members of Carsyn say she was found covered under pallets, cardboard and twigs. Tragically, Carsyn did not make it.

Continue reading Community rallies for Carsyn Seaweed, as RCMP apologize for ‘miscommunication’ in her case

Salvaging the sacred from climate disaster

Canada’s National Observer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The floodwaters rose swiftly and silently inside Nicole Norris’s family home and other residences of the Halalt First Nation on Vancouver Island when a storm unleashed a furious deluge of rain in November 2021. 

Her brother, asleep in the home’s ground-floor suite, awoke when his leg, hanging off the side of the bed, became submerged by overflow from the Chemainus River, said Norris, an Indigenous planning officer for the B.C. Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness. 

“Our home took on four feet of water in the basement. There was no sound to it,” said Norris, also known as Alag̱a̱mił. 

“Instantly, he yelled for my daughter and they were able to start pulling things from the basement.” 

Not everything of value escaped unscathed, said Norris, a regalia maker, weaver and cultural knowledge holder. 

Continue reading Salvaging the sacred from climate disaster

The First Nations calling for a renewal of fish farm licenses

Editor’s note: The licenses for 79 fish farms will come up for renewal by the end of June, 2022. If the Department of Fisheries fails to reissue them, there will only be seven farms left in the province. These are all in the Broughton Archipelago and their licenses come up for renewal in 2023. 

On March 21, a group of what was supposedly 17 First Nations supporting the fish farming industry put out a press release. Cortes Currents is not on the First Nations for Finfish Stewardship email list, and at that point had not heard of the group. We subsequently asked Dallas Smith, spokesperson for this coalition, for an interview. When he did not reply, Cortes Currents published a write-up largely based on that original press release. Within hours of posting a link through social media, someone directed Cortes Currents to independent biologist Alexandra Morton’s Facebook page where there was evidence that this group of 17 was at best 12 and more likely 11 First Nations. Since then, the list has grown smaller. 

Continue reading The First Nations calling for a renewal of fish farm licenses