“I tell my children, call me when there’s something wrong. Let’s talk about it, what support can I give you? It’s so important that they know I’m here for support. I say, if I just need to sit with you and touch your shoulder, you know I’m here. Let’s talk or just sit in silence. It’s like we say, Every Child Matters.”
Indigenous weaver Mohieqxweth, also known as Eileen Jacobs, is passionate about giving children a voice and encouraging them to stay true to themselves. The founder of Salish Angel Weaving and Apparel learned to weave in 2009 as an adult. In 2010 she was asked to weave headbands for Olympic athletes and sponsors when the Olympic Games came to BC.
“The craft of weaving is so meaningful to me; it’s a lost art bringing back so much of our culture,” shares Mohieqxweth/ Jacobs. “My mother taught me beading and sewing but leaving home so young, she didn’t get time to learn cultural traditions. I’m still learning a lot as my parents weren’t allowed to talk about culture. Having traditional teachings come back has filled that void inside me.”
In January 2023, Sea to Sky Community Services were honoured to unveil a traditional weaving by Mohieqxweth installed in the lobby of the Centrepoint Building in Squamish. The weaving is titled Every Child Matters. It represents the children lost to Residential School genocide across Canada.
The Every Child Matters piece took over a month and approximately 50 hours to create. As a mother of four and a grandmother of eight, Mohieqxweth understands the value of giving children permission to use their voice. She designed the Every Child Matters piece as she weaved, using colours to encourage education, understanding and respect for all children.
“This piece was created to represent our lost children,” explains Mohieqxweth. “The colours I chose are orange; which represents Orange Shirt Day, as well as the Medicine Wheel Colours: white, red, black and yellow for the people in the four directions. They are now in a healing place which is why I added the green for healing, and blue for continued healing. The colour orange also represents my Nation, known as Cedar People.”
She continues, “whenever I create anything it is with loving intentions. Being able to offer my creation as medicine to the community, I am showing that we’re bringing back the love of our culture and our teachings. I’m bringing it back because we were such minorities; people looked down at us. We were minimized because of the fact that they loved our territory.”
Truth, reconciliation, diversity and inclusion are regular topics of discussion and consideration at Sea to Sky Community Services. We prioritize these values and are committed to embedding them in every decision we make as an organisation, in our programming and as individuals in our community.
Creating welcoming symbols in and around our facilities is one way that we invite indigenous community members into our programming. Sharing and displaying art is an opportunity to celebrate local Indigenous talent and culture. Last year, we were proud to commission Squamish Nation Carver See Appl’tun/Art Harry to carve a Welcome Totem Pole for Foundry Sea to Sky, assisted by local Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth.
Mohieqxweth’s Every Child Matters weaving hangs in a public space and is intended to be touched, allowing the public to connect with, respect and honour the children. This weaving marked Mohieqxweth’s first unveiling, and SSCS is privileged to have been the host for this significant event.
“I love to bring joy to the pieces I create. I know kids are going to touch it and I want them to. If it gives them joy and happiness, let them put both hands on it. It brings the medicine and happiness,” she says with a smile. “I want all people to feel the energy, feel the love, feel the TLC, feel the respect and happiness. That’s my intention when I’m creating.”
Charlene Williams and her son Johnny Williams led the unveiling ceremony for the weaving, guiding the SSCS team on how to appropriately participate as a host family. We learned about the giving of quarters to witnesses, the covering and protection of Spirit Workers, and the cedar-branch brushing of the artist and her work. Roxy Lewis and Virginia Johnston/Kwewawtennat sang and drummed powerfully, filling the area with the full and beautiful sounds of their voices. Elder Linda Williams /Kwa Kwain Kulth Eye Nuxw, Councillor Joyce Williams, and many other witnesses spoke from their hearts and spirits, and on behalf of the children.
June is National Indigenous History Month in Canada. This month offers added opportunities to learn about and celebrate the unique history and current practices of our Indigenous communities here in the corridor. It is abundant what we can learn from the cultures, traditions and experiences of First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities who have lived on this land since time immemorial.
We acknowledge with gratitude that we live and work on the unceded ancestral territories of the Coast Salish Peoples and Interior Salish Peoples, serving the Sea to Sky Corridor of Skwxwú7mesh, Stl’atl’imx, Lil’wat, Samahquam, Skatin, Xa’xtsa and N’Quatqua Nations. As such, our work towards Canada’s truth and reconciliation is ongoing and committed.
photo credit: Anita Bonnarens