In the February sun, under an old cedar tree beside a massive industrial facility, a circle of twenty bundled figures sat in a silence broken by the occasional bird call (varied thrush, chickadee, flicker) or word of prayer. The prayer circle, begun in a Quaker tradition, has been meeting mostly by Kwekwecnewtxw the Watch House near the Trans Mountain tank facility on Burnaby Mountain. This week our prayer had a special focus and urgency as three of our members will appear in court on Monday morning and expect to be in jail that evening. Sometimes when the circle meets to pray it is also an act of protection for this sacred land and solidarity with Indigenous land and water protectors, we pray in front of heavy equipment or at the foot of trees slated for removal.
Our circle held Ruth, Janette and Catherine at the centre as we blessed them and prayed that they would be strengthened by their connection to the water, the mountain, the cedars and community. And that they would have Saint Valentine’s fierce love in the face of death.
It is a powerful thing that our friends appear in court on February 14, a day when for 30 years families and supporters have gathered to honour and remember missing and murdered mostly Indigenous women and Two Spirit persons in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Violence against Indigenous women is deeply tied to extraction of resources from the land. The commercial celebration of Valentine’s Day is about romantic love, but the tradition comes from the letters Valentine wrote from jail before he was executed by the Roman emperor for performing marriages that allowed young men to escape military conscription.
So love and land, jail and empire, small attempts at solidarity, and hopeful action in the face of deathly institutions are how we pray.
Court support, prayers and ceremony: 9 am Feb 14 at Nelson and Hornby.
Women’s Memorial March: 12 noon Feb 14 at Main and Hastings.
Next Prayer Circle: Saturday March 12, 10:30 AM Kwekwecnewtxw Watch House, Burnaby Mountain
About 25 people gathered Saturday morning, December 11th, under the tall cedar tree beside Kwekwecnewtxw, the traditional Coast Salish Watch House on Burnaby Mountain, to hold a sacred water ceremony in honour of water’s importance within God’s creation and to request the healing of human beings’ relationship with Mother Earth. The rains temporarily paused during the ceremony, presided over by two local Indigenous leaders, which commenced at the arrival of a party who had walked from Lower Hume Park, in New Westminster, to the site, carrying water from the Fraser and Brunette rivers. Members and supporters of Salal + Cedar were among the walkers and those participating in the ceremony.
The sacred water pilgrimage completed a journey begun last September at the “Spirit Fast for the Fraser,” when the sacred water was first carried from the Fraser River to Hume Park. A portion of sacred water was poured into nearby creeks, while some was held back for future ceremonies.