Totem Awake

His father carved the canoe I’m sitting beside, my thigh touching the side of the cedar boat.

I’m reminded of the invitation Richard Wagamese speaks to in one of his books: to sit with things long enough to let them share their story with you.

It didn’t take that long. 

I said hello to the canoe. 

I heard in my mind’s eye, “Heeeelllllllllooooooooo” in a deep and slow voice, akin to what I feel a tree would sound like if it could speak.

The man with two braids down his front, wearing a pink sweatshirt, he had carved the totem being awoken in this ceremony with the mentorship of his cousin, who wore a large necklace of claws and a woven cedar hat.

His dad carved too, he said. He grew up in cedar shavings, he said. But he didn’t learn the craft from his father. His father died before that could happen. 

His grief leaked out his eyes. 

I sensed the spirit of his father through the canoe touching my side. “I see you,” the voice said to him, with a sense of pride. Am I the only one who heard it? Perhaps he did too. The carver. And maybe his cousin. And the cousin’s aunt sitting in the front row. 

The aunt received the woman’s warrior song in a vision in a sweat ceremony. She sang that song. To us. The woman’s warrior song. Three drums. Women singing. The vibrations moved throughout the room, and in my mind’s eye, I heard, “Fight, fight for LOVE!”

She and another smudged the awakening totem with cedar boughs. I’ve been smudged with cedar boughs. Potent cleansing from an Indigenous friend, Eagle Woman. I wondered if the totem felt like it was being woken with a wonderful and sparkling energetic tickle, like I did.

“Do you have anything to share with me, dear totem, now that you are awake?” I asked in my mind’s eye.

I heard, “I am here.”

Looking at the Thunderbird carved at the top rekindled memories of being deep in a medicine circle receiving with utmost inexplicable clarity from within that my energetic ancestry is Thunderbird. I still don’t fully understand this. My bloodline is not from here. But one of my main Spirit Guides feels Indigenous. She feels like she’s from here, the West Coast. She offers the essence or energy of white healing salve to some of the people I work with. She’s always by my right side. “Are you Thunderbird?” I ask her. 

“No,” she says, “You are.”

* * * Background: Earlier today, I attended a public ceremony to awaken a new totem pole in the Skw̲xw̲ú7mesh and Líl̓wat7úl Cultural Centre in Whistler. One of the Indigenous speakers encouraged us to share our experiences today with others, as a way to honour the story, and the act of storytelling. This writing is my own experience of today’s ceremony, my own story of what I experienced. Here is further explanation of the event from the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre, Facebook post on June 23, 2022: “Today the great story pole Sqātsza7 Tmicw – Father Land, received its awakening ceremony in the Great Hall with Lil’wat family giving a blessing of cedar and song. Lil’wat Artist’s Ed NoiseCat and Apprentice Q̓áwam̓ Redmond Andrews spoke about their experience, starting in the summer of 2020, and the storytelling and mentorship it took to bring this beautiful piece to stand in the Great Hall.

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