The Cedar Tree: Our Culture, Our Heart

Snuneymuxw people are connected to all living things, such as the cedar tree.

The relationship is highly respected by all who use and rely on the cedar tree, especially how the cedar is used in every aspect.

Red and yellow cedar is used to make: hats, baskets, blankets, ceremonial regalia, nets, canoes (red), canoe paddles (yellow), masks, mats, house posts to lodges, headbands and clothes.

 

Snuneymuxw First Nation is a vibrant, living community who honour their past, while building cultural and economic futures for all. Culture is more than just historical events strung together, it’s the weaving and passing of knowledge and values from generation to generation. Snuneymuxw history is living knowledge, because the knowledge acknowledges the Ancestors. That is where it all began, and how it is still being put into practice today.

Back in time, ancestors followed protocol when harvesting cedar. If a tree needed to be taken down, then the entire tree would be used for something.  Its roots, bark, branches, and trunk provide many important uses.

The bark and roots can be used to make medicine, clothing, hats, baskets, mats, and rope.

The trunk of the cedar is used for making dugout canoes and totem poles. Planks are used to build big houses, canoe paddles, canoe bailers, and cooking utensils. Masks and other important ceremonial objects are also made from cedar.

Cedar boughs are used in spiritual ceremonies such as bathing as the cedar takes away negativity and uplifts one’s spirit.

 

In Snuneymuxw territory there are two types of cedar.

In Hul’qumi’num language red cedar is known as xpey’, and yellow cedar as pashul’uqw.

 

  • xpey’cus– cedar boughs
  • ‘aluxut– harvest
  • sluwi’– inner cedar bark
  • p’uli’– outer bark
  • sayuws– cedar bark hat
  • situn-basket
  • lec’us -cedar root basket

The Ancestors made a variety of baskets for storage or for gathering berries, roots, clams, and other foods. Coiled baskets were tight enough to be used for boiling soups and stews. Baskets were very important for everyday life in our villages.

Harvesting Cedar Bark

Harvesting bark is the first step in creating a basket. Harvesting time for cedar bark begins in early spring. Respecting protocols for how to harvest cedar is very important when going to the mountain. It’s important to introduce yourself to grandmother cedar tree and tell her what your purpose is. Knowing how to pull the bark and how much to take from one tree is also important. Always say hay ch ‘qa (thank you) to the cedar tree. It’s a way of showing respect and honouring the tree for what it has provided. Next step is rolling up the bark to bring home and soak in water. Soaking the bark in water makes it softer and easier to peel.

Culturally Modified Tree (CMT) that was harvested in 1919 by Dave Bodaly’s grandfather Abraham Johnny of Snuneymuxw First Nation. The harvested cedar was used to make a bailer for a canoe.

Dave Bodaly harvesting cedar using the knowledge that was passed down from his Elders. “We always harvest on the north side of the tree because we do not want to kill the tree”
Dave Bodaly (Lax̂iya)
Snuneymuxw First Nation

After we pull the bark and strip the outer bark off, we roll the cedar bark to bring it home”
Dave Bodaly (Lax̂iya)
Snuneymuxw First Nation