On Tuesday, April 30th ȽÁU, WELṈEW̱ Tribal School students and PEPAKEṈ HÁUTW̱ Foundation came over to SḴŦAḴ | Mayne Island for a day of restoration and exploration.

Organized by the Conservancy’s Stewardship Coordinator, Justine Apostolopoulos, and PEPAKEṈ HÁUTW̱’s Environmental Education Director, Kyle Clarke, the day was planned underneath the ŚTEṈIST ȻENTOL EȻSIÁ TĆÁNȻE | Walking Forward with the Past project; a collaboration between Campbell Bay Music Festival Society, PEPAKEṈ HÁUTW̱, Mayne Island Agricultural Society, Mayne Island Conservancy, Mayne Island Library, and W̱SÁNEĆ Ethnobotanical curators and artists. Centered around the Ethnobotany Garden in Miners Bay (beside the new Thrift Shop), the project includes events and programming such as the recent foraging and natural dyeing workshops with Myrna Crossley, Coast Salish Art Exhibits at the Mayne Island Library, the ÍY SȻÁĆEL (good day) SENĆOŦEN Language workshop, and youth education such as the ȽÁU, WELṈEW̱ Tribal School visit.

The HELI,SET Drum Group blessing the garden at the opening on November 9, 2023. Photo from the Walking Forward With the Past website.

The ȽÁU, WELṈEW̱ Tribal School is a part of the W̱SÁNEĆ School Board and offers a contemporary curriculum centered around W̱SÁNEĆ worldview, disciplines and values, including an immersive language program. SḴŦAḴ | Mayne Island is within the unceded traditional territories of the W̱SÁNEĆ Nation (Tsartlip, Tseycum, Tsawout bands) and has a dedicated Tsartlip reserve at Helen Point. Having the students at St. John Point was a great opportunity to further build their connection with the island as a whole.

Students, teachers and PEPAKEṈ HÁUTW̱ arrived in a bright blue bus at the St. John Point entrance where they were met by Conservancy staff.  After a quick lunch break, the program began with a welcome circle, where each person introduced themselves by name and where they are from – a W̱SÁNEĆ custom that brought camaraderie and receptivity to the day.

Everyone came together for a welcome circle at the beginning of the program. Photo by Tamara Bonsdorf.

The program was divided into two stations: Habitat Restoration and Beach Exploration. Over the next few hours, students and teachers alike engaged in Scotch broom removal, wood chip distribution, and intertidal exploration before heading back on the late afternoon ferry – a long travel day for everyone who came over, but a successful and exuberant time.

Intertidal Exploration

With the use of the Conservancy’s educational bingo sheets, students set out on a guided exploration, observing and collecting specimens for aquariums set up on the beach. A temporary habitat was created in the aquaria, so students had the opportunity to take a closer look at animals from the intertidal and learn more about behaviours and tactics used to survive in extreme conditions. Students enjoyed discovering sea stars living deep in the cracks of boulders, anemones closing up to preserve moisture during low tide, large red Dungeness crabs scuttling throughout the Eelgrass and the otherwise incredible diversity to be explored. It was a beautiful sunny day, and the tide was very low, affording us a lot of space to explore the beach.

Students created a temporary habitat in the aquariums to better observe animals. Photo by Tamara Bonsdorf.

Habitat Restoration

The Conservancy’s ongoing restoration sites near the beach offered an opportunity to showcase our land-based work and involve the students in removing Scotch broom and caring for young tree seedlings. We observed the difference between two restoration sites, one of which had benefited from the addition of wood chips. We talked about the important role of decomposing wood in forest environments. Students worked hard to spread wood chips and remove Scotch broom seedlings from the site. During the work we observed wildflowers, frogs, and explored a giant ant nest.

Students worked hard to remove Scotch broom from restoration sites at St. John Point. Photo by Tamara Bonsdorf.

Students from the ȽÁU, WELṈEW̱ Tribal School (grades K-7) and W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Secondary (grades 8-12) have experience in invasive species removal and caring for native plants through programming with PEPAKEṈ HÁUTW̱, where they work on a garden at the W̱SÁNEĆ School Grounds on a weekly basis. There was great enthusiasm to help remove Scotch broom from Conservancy sites here on the island and to learn more about ongoing restoration at St. John Point – thank you to Judith Arney, Sarah Jim, Hannah Glass, and Kyle Clarke from PEPAKEṈ HÁUTW̱, who lent their knowledge and expertise during the program.

Biologist Rob Underhill showing students the differences between plant communities inside and outside an enclosure. Photo by Tamara Bonsdorf.

At the end of the day, we came together in a closing circle, each contributing one word that came to mind from the day. There were a lot of tired, happy, and hungry students! Thank you to each and every one – because of their hard work, the land at St. John Point is further along in its restoration and healing. In the autumn, an expanded program will see Mayne School students heading to SṈIDȻEȽ for a day of restoration on the land with PEPAKEṈ HÁUTW̱ and students from the ȽÁU, WELṈEW̱ Tribal School.

Exploring the shoreline – did they complete their bingo sheet? Photo by Tamara Bonsdorf.

Learn More and Support!

Head on over to PEPAKEṈ HÁUTW̱’s website to learn more about the work they do, how you can help, and how you can support programs such as the one they run with the ȽÁU, WELṈEW̱ Tribal School.

To learn how you can support W̱SÁNEĆ programs and initiatives, visit the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council website.

ŚTEṈIST ȻENTOL EȻSIÁ TĆÁNȻE | Walking Forward with the Past recently became a recipient of Heritage BC Awards 2024 in the category of Indigenous and Diverse Cultures.


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