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Food, medicine and community shared at cross-cultural exchange event

Indian and Liǧʷiłdax̌ʷ people gather to learn and share at Campbell River Art Gallery

On Nov. 4, two cultures met and shared medicines and food on the unceded territory of the Liǧʷiłdax̌ʷ People.

The event was a collaboration between the 7 Generation Stewards Society and artist Farheen HaQ, whose exhibition ‘میں اپنی ماں کی بیٹی ہوں | I am my mother’s daughter” just wrapped up at the Campbell River Art Gallery.

Leading up to her exhibition, HaQ and 7 Generation Stewards Society founder Cory Cliffe realized that despite the large geographic distance between the foothills of the Himalaya in Northern India and Pakistan (where HaQ’s ancestors lived) and the Liǧʷiłdax̌ʷ territory, the two cultures had a lot of similarities.

“We were talking about the similarities between our cultures and we got into traditional medicines, traditional knowledge, and stuff like that,” Cliffe said. “We thought that this would be a great follow-up for the the exhibition … It’s an opportunity to connect on a cultural level and actually share something; share some tea, a couple traditional medicines, just experience each other’s cultures.”

“My ancestry is from India and Pakistan and every time I’m in relationship and questioning what it means to be a settler and an invited guest on the territory that I live on … and building relationships, I’m realizing how similar what my ancestors and the protocols and my culture and my family have taught me is so similar to so many Kwakwakaʼwakw or Coast Salish traditions,” HaQ, who lives on lək̓ʷəŋən (Lekwungen) territory, said.

One of the goals of the event was to hearken back to a time before colonization. At the time, the area around Campbell River was a thoroughfare of people travelling up and down the coast.

“Traditionally we did one of two things with people who came into our territory. We either welcomed them, accepted, respected and shared that knowledge … or we booted them out and made an example of them, one of the two,” Cliffe said. “But today we don’t do either one of those. There are so many people who have come to Campbell River who were in the traditional sense of things not invited and didn’t ask for permission. So this is an opportunity for us to exhibit the way things used to be.

“I think it needs to happen more and more on all First Nations’ territories,” he said. “Unfortunately, the the decision-making has been taken away from us, but that doesn’t stop us from being able to accept people and respect them and do that culture sharing. It’s really important.”

The evening started with a welcoming from Liǧʷiłdax̌ʷ Elder James Quatell, followed by some Indian prayers to help bring ancestors from both sides into the space. From there, there was a sharing of traditional medicines and foods: Labrador Tea from the Liǧʷiłdax̌ʷ side and Ayurveda and chai from the Indian side. After the tea, guests shared a meal prepared by both cultures, and took the time to speak openly and share ideas and traditions between themselves.

HaQ saw the event as a “beautiful example of reemergence that we see through Indigenous communities.

“It’s a call for all of us in the diaspora and displaced settlers from other places to bring our ancestors on to territories of other ancestors in a good way,” she said. “It’s also reaffirming for us and an honest, authentic way to share that actually re-positions white dominant culture, and doesn’t center it. It actually allows us to connect in ways that we used to do before colonization.

“We have that connection to the Earth as this holding and nurturing body,” HaQ said. “Just to come together in ways that are comforting and remind us of our shared humanity is really important. So that’s one of my goals too, is just to be humans together.”

The evening ended with a Liǧʷiłdax̌ʷ Canoe song, followed by Quatell and other Liǧʷiłdax̌ʷ drummers joining the Indian representatives in a traditional chant.

“That’s really how you create community, it is connection,” Cliffe said.

RELATED: Campbell River Art Gallery’s fall exhibition examines intergenerational work through sculpture, media and performance

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