A View From Our Northern Neighbors

Ecko Aleck ︎ Traditional Territories of the Pentlatch, Snaw-naw-as and Snuneymuxw First Nations

As the leader of an indigenous cultural organization in a popular tourist destination, Ecko (Kawaya7) Aleck shares her perspective of the pandemic as it concerns her life and the lives of those around her in Vancouver, BC -  traditional territories of the Pentlatch, Snaw-naw-as and Snuneymuxw First Nations.

My ancestral name is Kawaya7, my English name is Ecko. I was born into the Nlaka’pamux nation. I was raised with the shishalh nation and now live, work and play on the traditional territories of the Pentlatch, Snaw-naw-as and Snuneymuxw First Nations on Vancouver Island, BC.

I am an ambassador for Natives Outdoors, small business owner of Sacred Matriarch Productions and program coordinator of Syeyu Cultural Experiences (youth lead cultural tourism). Most importantly, I am the mother of two little boys.

These last few weeks have proven to be some of the most challenging weeks as a mother, a business owner and a self-employed worker. Mid-March the announcements began to roll in regarding Covid-19 and we quickly watched the world as we know it come to a halt. The youth gatherings, sports trips and travel opportunities our organizations had planned all cancelled. The Learning Centre we work with- a safe place for at-risk Indigenous youth- needed to shut its doors over spring break for the first time. As an artist and as a business owner, every project I had was cancelled or postponed except for one - which required me to accomplish a digital transition to virtually teach youth music production through an online platform. I cried every day and in less than a week pushed myself to new levels in my industry and ways of teaching.

As the coordinator of a new Indigenous tourism initiative, I watched all winter efforts to have our first official launch this season fizzle back into a cocoon. It was like wave after wave in a storm, where the ocean becomes mountains and you hold your breath knowing that’s not the worst of it yet. Then the announcements rolled in about school closures. We had hit the eye of the storm.

The world paused and my heart broke. It broke for my son who loves school, loves his friends and would be entering a whole new overwhelming world of change where no one could tell him how long it would last. It broke for all of those young people I work with. My life’s work revolves around supporting Indigenous youth to find their gifts and raise their voices through culture and arts. The world we are currently facing is a hostile place for those already at-risk who often find refuge in spaces other than home.

I am grateful for my own teachings of the land and medicines while keeping in my heart and prayers the many young people right now without them. Trauma informed practice teaches the importance of CONNECTION. My cultural teachings share the importance of CONNECTION. We as a people need our ceremonies in community, connection and interaction.

Today I give thanks that we are an adaptive people. We will rise as one! But first, we must unearth the teachings we hold deeply that will guide us through this storm. The next generations need us to be proactive and creative in these challenging times.

Huy’ch’qa/Kukstemc Ecko Aleck

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