West Shore RCMP TL’Ches Spirit Canoe Program

West Shore

2024-06-21 06:40 PDT

In honour of National Indigenous Peoples Day we wanted to share more about the TL’Ches Spirit Canoe Program which is run by the West Shore RCMP Indigenous Policing and Community Policing Units.

The 35-foot Pacific Dancer Canoe named TL’Ches Spirit boasts traditional Indigenous artwork and is used by the West Shore RCMP Indigenous and Community Policing Unit’s for community and cultural events.



Video Description and close captioning –

Various shots of West Shore RCMP and community members paddling throughout the West Shore area on the canoe TL’Ches Spirit. Cst. Cole Brewer narrating in the background explaining what the program is about.

Video Transcript – Cst. Cole Brewer

My name is Constable Cole Brewer. I work in the Indigenous Policing Unit here at West Shore and serving Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations.

Providing a police service to a west coast Indigenous community. One of the ways, we’re always looking for ways to engage with youth, is utilizing the canoe to engage with youth. Our canoeing program, seemed like the perfect fit because it is really is in the blood of our youth. It doesn’t matter the weather conditions or anything like that, they are always motivated to paddle. And so getting the canoe and using it to engage with youth, at first we engaged mostly with Indigenous youth in the community. But now it’s branched out to engaging with all youth in the spirit of reconciliation.

As police, our job is so many things. It’s not just enforcement capacity. We’re also, we have to be able to connect with the community. You know, when you take away the uniform that makes it really clear when we’re out in the canoe and we’re sharing other skills and other information. And doing things in a fun manner really helps break down those barriers.

We worked really closely with some elders in the community. Specifically, one of the key elders would be Elder Joan Morris from Songhees, traditional name Sellemah. Elder Sellemah worked with us all the way through this. If you stand on Willows Beach and look out, you will see a series of Islands. Little Chatham, Big Chatham, and Discovery Island. Those islands are part of the Songhees reserve. And TL’Ches in Lekwungen means ‘island’. But it specifically refers to the former Songhees village site on Big Chatham Island. Elder Sellemah is the last Songhees member to have been born on the island.

We ensure that every time the canoe goes out, we usually share and call Elder Sellemah. Tell her where we’ve gone out, who we’ve been with. Because of the connect with the canoe and the project to the community, we also have a cultural responsibility to pass on to anybody who goes out on the canoe. And it’s just as important as the safety briefing that we give. It’s the cultural briefing. As Skippers, we’re responsible for making sure that everybody understands the name of the canoe TL’Ches Spirit.

The artwork on the canoe, includes the wolf on the front of the canoe. Which in Lekwungen is a stqéyə (Sta-Kay-Yah). We had the wolf out on the islands a few years ago. And a lot of community members believed that is part of the spirit of the late Chief Robert Sam. And so that is why we have a stqéyə on the canoe.

Athletics, sports, culture, being outside. When we have youth on the canoe the other thing they really have to worry about is the paddle in their hand and looking forward and staying in in sync. And it’s a really calming. You’re at peace with nature and also there’s the cultural connection to being out on the water. Which is really evident, especially when we have our Indigenous youth out there.

For us to be, to share in that, and be part of that with our community is one thing. And also when we’re engaging with the schools, sharing those teachings with and those skills with other students, it’s really empowering. And it’s a lot of fun.

It’s important that we patch on those cultural teachings. Because it connects everybody who goes on the canoe to the community and the culture of the community. Both past, present, and futures.

TL’Ches is a Lekwungen word which means island, specifically referring to the Chatham Islands, which is the location of a former Songhees Nation village site. Elder Joan Morris, whose traditional name is Sellemah was the last Songhees Nation member to have lived on TL’Ches (Chatham Island). Sellemah has shared many teachings with Cst. Cole Brewer who began the Canoe program several years ago.

The tradition of passing on Indigenous teachings is what inspired us to start this canoes program. Every time we take a group of people out on TL’Ches Spirit, we provide a cultural briefing which allows the participants to understand the history and significance of the area, said Cst. Cole Brewer, who is a member of the Lower Similkameen Indian Band and a Constable with the West Shore RCMP Indigenous Policing Unit.

Released by:

Cpl. Nancy Saggar
Media Relations Officer
West Shore RCMP
698 Atkins Avenue, Victoria, BC V9B 3A4
Office: 250-474-2264
Fax: 250-474-8790

Email: westshore_media@rcmp-grc.gc.ca
Website: westshore.rcmp-grc.gc.ca (English only)

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