Cecilia Dick, cultural tourism supervisor for the Songhees Nation, stands at the top of Beacon Hill Loop in Meeqan, one of 12 significant cultural sites along the new Songhees Indigenous Marine Trail. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)

Cecilia Dick, cultural tourism supervisor for the Songhees Nation, stands at the top of Beacon Hill Loop in Meeqan, one of 12 significant cultural sites along the new Songhees Indigenous Marine Trail. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)

Songhees marine trail celebrates living history of Greater Victoria’s Indigenous people

Provincial funding boosts 12-stop marine tourism program set to open in 2022

In every blade of grass, camas bloom and burial cairn live the earliest stories of Lekwungen territory, and a new Songhees tourism initiative hopes to share those stories.

Cecilia Dick, cultural tourism supervisor for the Songhees Nation, says the Greater Victoria area Songhees Indigenous Marine Trail – which received a $637,900 provincial boost earlier this month – is laying the foundation for generations to come.

“To tell our stories the way we want them to be told, it’s amazing just to have this opportunity,” she said. “I can’t wait to tell these stories and show people that every little blade of grass or stone has a story. Everything matters to us.”

A 12-passenger vessel will take participants on a guided tour of the marine trail around the capital-area coastline, highlighting a dozen shoreline sites significant to the Songhees people, with nine sites accessible for disembarking.

READ ALSO: Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations open new RV Park

Stops include the Songhees Wellness Centre, Fort Rodd Hill, Songhees Point, the Inner Harbour, Ogden Point, Meeqan (Beacon Hill Park), Tl’ches (Songhees islands) and more.

Existing tourism programs, such as the Seven Signs of Lekwungen tour, nature walks and canoe tours, will also see enhancements.

Meeqan is rich with history, Dick said. With the right guide, from the top of Beacon Hill Loop, a visitor can picture the warrior village that guarded the shoreline, the oat-stick games of qoqwialls in the bare meadow, or later camas gathering expeditions, when the park earned its name – Meeqan, meaning “warmed by the sun.”

The Songhees Indigenous Marine Trail will have 12 spanning Royal Roads University to Cadboro Bay – all culturally significant locations for the Songhees people. (Map courtesy of Royal Roads)

Because of its central location, Greater Victoria was used for trading and gathering among many First Nations, such as Bella Bella or Tsimshian nations, Dick said. The traditional territories of Lekwungen span Greater Victoria and south Vancouver Island.

READ ALSO: Songhees Nation to open two Victoria cannabis stores spring 2021

The new marine trail is expected to create new jobs for both of the region’s Lekwungen communities, such as base hosts, canoe tour crews, boat crews, guides, cooks and communication and cultural advisors.

“Opening up that opportunity for them is going to be amazing because it gives them that drive to keep going,” Dick said.

The stops on the trail may have been altered physically over time, but the Lekwungen past is more than just history, Dick said.

“You know, we believe that everything’s alive, everything has a purpose,” she said. “So we want to educate people in how we preserved our lives back then, and how we’re still doing it today.”

Tours are expected to begin in 2022.

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