Song, dance and storytelling help healing after pandemic shutdowns

Port Alberni, BC

Nuu-chah-nulth members are invited to come together for a cultural evening of song, dance and storytelling every Wednesday night at Maht Mahs parking lot.

Lifting Our Spirits is an event hosted by the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council’s Child and Youth Services to bring people back together after COVID-19 shutdowns.

The event began as a response to the 215 children’s remains found at a former Kamloops residential school.

“We had this vision to carry on the drumming circles that had started around the residential school topics but to include all of the different circumstances our families have faced over the COVID year,” said organizer and manager of NTC Child and Youth Services, Marlo Thomas. “Just to bring the families out and celebrate by drumming and singing and bringing the community together… the quickest way to healing is through culture.”

Lifting Our Spirits began on July 14 and Thomas said the first night saw around 50 people come out. The next Wednesday grew to about 100 people.

“The community is really responding to the invite to come and join us,” Thomas said. “I had attended the first night to honour the 215 recovered children and I saw just how the drumming and the singing and having an open floor created that organic healing, so myself and my staff member Melinda Sinclair had been talking about it and I said it would be nice if we could carry this on.”

Thomas said in addition to drumming and singing, Nuu-chah-nulth knowledge keepers join the event to share teachings and wisdom for healing.

“We’ve invited the (Nuu-chah-nulth) mental health team to be present and hopefully we’ll be getting different departments out from NTC just to reintroduce them to the community,” Thomas said. “There’s been a lot of struggling and grief that all of the nations are going through in NTC and we just wanted to find something to uplift them.”

Thomas hopes the event will catch on to all Nuu-chah-nulth nations.

“We had the Lifting Our Spirits up in Kyuquot and on the coast as well, so other communities are slowly starting to tag on to the event and hopefully it will spread across the other nations and on Vancouver Island as well,” Thomas said. “Then we could get all of the nations drumming and singing at the same time. I think that would help create a more holistic healing opportunity for Indigenous people to interact with the teachings and spend time together.”

The event also offers an open-mic opportunity for anyone wishing to share a story, song, dance or teaching.

“Culture is healing and everybody’s welcome to come and join us,” Thomas said.

Lifting Our Spirits is held on Wednesday evenings from 6 – 9 p.m. A light snack and refreshments are offered.

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