It takes a village to keep families together

Cowichan groups are collaborating to end child apprehensions.

Patricia Dawn has a bold vision for the Cowichan Valley: she wants to turn it into a “no apprehension zone,” where Indigenous children are not taken from their parents and placed in foster homes or group homes.

Patricia’s work with the Red Willow Womyn’s Family Society was featured in an article published by the Tyee this week. The work involves, in extreme cases, sheltering parent and child in a foster situation together, protecting the family rather than the child alone. She calls the initiative “It Takes a Village,” because so many community members, groups and agencies are working together to prevent child apprehensions.

As First Nations children continue to survive ongoing impacts of residential schools and other colonial policies, they remain disproportionately apprehended by the system. In the Cowichan Valley, Indigenous people make up just 12 per cent of the population but 78 per cent of the children in government care, according to the Tyee article. Across B.C., Indigenous people make up five per cent of the population and more than half of kids in care.

It’s easy to look to our neighbours to the south and demand that the United States end the separation of children from their parents at the border. It’s harder to commit to keeping families together here at home. Will our village do what it takes to prevent the trauma of forced family separations? That question ultimately will be answered by all of us, together.


Meet your neighbours

Herb Rice is building new eagle wings for a totem pole he originally carved for the City of Duncan 30 years ago.


On a recent Thursday afternoon, Herb Rice was in his workshop at Whippletree Junction refurbishing a totem pole he carved with a cousin 30 years ago for the City of Duncan. Herb is a Coast Salish artist, carver and teacher. He explained to me how the totems tell stories, old stories about how to care for the animals and the land. This particular totem pole is topped with a giant eagle, which Herb says represents freedom and vision.

“Freedom is looking at your own freedom first, as an individual, and once you become strong in that, then you begin to share, first with your direct family, then your community beyond that. The stronger you become, the more involved in your community you become. The vision aspect of the eagle is knowing that every life choice that you make will affect seven generations of your people. One creature represents so much to our people.”

When people ask him where he calls home, Herb says he’s not always sure how to answer.

“What I tell people generally is that my home is anywhere between Victoria and Nanoose Bay, on the Island. My family is here, this is where I’m from. Anywhere I go, between Victoria and Nanoose, I meet relatives.”

Home can sometimes be a feeling, as he found not long after moving to Cowichan Bay.

“It was a nice sunny evening, and I walked out on to my little deck that was right over the water, and I looked out into the warmth of the Cowichan Bay evening. I had a whole feeling wash over me. It was a feeling of home. I felt comfortable there, I felt at home there. Everywhere I walk, anywhere around here, I know my ancestors have been, and still are, and will be.”


News of the week

  • Duncan city council voted last week to allow marijuana shops under temporary use permits, which would be granted for up to three years, the Cowichan Valley Citizen reports. The city has issued a request for proposals to retailers who wish to sell pot in Duncan.

  • North Cowichan council will host a public meeting on Dec. 5 about the proposed winter women’s shelter, the Cowichan Valley Citizen reports. It will decide following that meeting whether or not to issue a three-year permit for the operation.

  • North Cowichan is considering a ban on hunting on Mount Tzouhalem and Stoney Hill to minimize conflict with recreational users in those forests, the Cowichan Valley Citizen reports. The municipality will seek public input on the proposal in the coming months.

This is from the Cowichan Valley weekly newsletter. Make sure you subscribe here.


Let’s gather

🌊Nov. 29: RAVEN Trust will host a screening of the documentary Raven People Rising at Duncan United Church, about the Heiltsuk Nation’s response to an oil spill on the Bella Bella coast in 2016. The event is a fundraiser for the nation’s legal challenge against the owners of the boat that ran aground as well as the provincial and federal governments.

🍞Nov. 30: Small Block Brewery is having a party to launch its latest beer, the UpCycle Nut Brown Ale, made from True Grain Bakery bread that would have otherwise gone to waste.

🏡Dec. 2: The Warmland Rojava Sponsor Group is raising money to help resettle a Syrian refugee family in the Cowichan Valley with a burger and beer night at the Cow Bay Pub.


This is for you 

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