Knowledge Keepers is a MOA original documentary series which documents traditional Indigenous knowledge keepers. See the land currently known as British Columbia in ways you’ve never seen it before as these individuals give us an inside look at the world we live in—through the eyes of a person who has thousands of years of oral history in their ears, and thousands of years of tradition in their blood. Three special knowledge keepers from the traditional and unceded territories of the Sechelt (Shishá7lh), Squamish (Skwxwú7mesh) and Musqueam (xʷməθkʷəy̓əm) teach us about the ancient art traditions of cedar harvest, Indigenous plants and salmon fishing. In a world of great unrest from environmental struggles, the voices of Indigenous knowledge keepers are essential to document for future generations.
The First Peoples, who inhabit what is now known as British Columbia, have been here since time immemorial and have many teachings passed down from person to person through oral histories and art. The people who are responsible for remembering the intricacies of this cultural heritage are known as knowledge keepers. The Museum of Anthropology supports the work of these knowledge keepers by offering this video series on cedar weaving, traditional plant medicines, and salmon with the understanding that these living entities provide health, wealth, and sustenance to us all.
Episode 1: Cedar Harvest
Jessica Silvey (Sechelt/Squamish) and her partner Robert Joe (Sechelt) are traditionalists and knowledge keepers who reside on the Sechelt reserve on the Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada. Their professional and personal lives involve the preservation of cultural traditions, passed down from generation to generation. In this episode of Knowledge Keepers, Jessica and Robert take us on a special trip to document the ancient tradition of harvesting cedar bark—the material of Coast Salish basket weaving and regalia making. In this territory, culturally modified trees (CMT) that are over 200 years old can be found, proving that the Coast Salish peoples of this land were here long before settlers from Europe. The Museum of Anthropology houses baskets made from this very material, harvested in exactly the same way, which are over 4500 years old.
In this video, follow Jessica and Robert on a special trip alongside a river in Sechelt, BC that is zoned for logging. By staying in contact with the local logging industries, they harvest the young cedar bark before the trees are logged. Jessica teaches the traditional art form of cedar weaving to universities, high schools and museums, but rarely does she have a student who understands just how meaningful the material they are working with truly is. On this special occasion, Jessica and Robert take us to where they find the materials for their educational weaving.
Please note: Only Indigenous people are permitted to harvest cedar in such a way as it is in alignment with their traditional protocols and beliefs. Jessica and Robert have participated in this series as a way to document their tradition, so that future generations of their ancestors will be able to witness and carry on this ancient practice.
Episode 2: Medicine Walk
Take a walk with T’uy’tanat-Cease Wyss in Harmony Garden, located in Skwxwú7mes Úxwumixw. Learn about the oldest plants on earth; the pollinators necessary for sustaining our food resources and thus human life; and the Indigenous medicines that grow on Coast Salish lands. Cease Wyss is part of a long line of cultural Knowledge Keepers who have passed down their wisdom of Indigenous medicines from generation to generation, since time immemorial. Much of this knowledge is now in danger of being lost due to the intergenerational impacts of colonization. She encourages people from all cultural backgrounds to understand the importance of learning about Indigenous plants. Cease often shares this knowledge through site-specific, culturally focused teachings using traditional storytelling methods as her style of educating.
T’uy’tanat-Cease Wyss has been a creative cultural influencer in Vancouver for 25 years. Her Skwxwú7mesh, Sto:Lo, Metis, Hawaiian, and Swiss heritage strengthen her art practise and cultural work. She uses knowledge of “ethno-botany” in all of her plant-related work, including Indigenous community gardens, ReciprociTea gatherings, Indigenous plant walks, and wetlands restoration projects.