When Trudeau goes to Tofino, capq̕ʷicyaʔ goes to her meme garden

capq̕ʷicyaʔ, also known as Alexa Manuel, says she uses humour to deal with hard times — as syilx People have been doing since time immemorial.

When the world’s feeling heavy and she needs a laugh, syilx literature student capq̕ʷicyaʔ — also known as Alexa Manuel — adds another meme to the meme garden she started on Instagram in 2017. 

capq̕ʷicyaʔ fills her digital “syilx meme garden” with a mix of cheeky messages and images of seasonal flowers and plants.

It’s about taking power from harm, she says. 

“That’s how we’ve dealt with things since the dawn of time,” adds capq̕ʷicyaʔ, whose syilx roots are from spax̌mn (Upper Nicola Indian Band). “It’s just the best way to heal ourselves.”

capq̕ʷicyaʔ is a graduate student at the University of British Columbia, in the English Literature program. Her most recent memes take shots at Thanksgiving and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. 

“May our land be full of thanks, and giving land back,” reads a meme she published on Oct. 9. 

And on Oct. 3, she published a meme that says: “If you say ‘reconciliation’ in the mirror five times Justin Trudeau doesn’t appear at all because he’s on vacation,” — in response to the prime minister’s decision to spend Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (Sept. 30) vacationing with his family in Tofino, instead of attending in-person events held to honour survivors and their families. 

capq̕ʷicyaʔ published this meme on Oct. 3. Photo from capq̕ʷicyaʔ’s Instagram
capq̕ʷicyaʔ’s “Pumpkin Spiced Land Back” meme caught the attention of many on social media in 2020. Photo from capq̕ʷicyaʔ’s Instagram.

“I can’t picture going through things and not trying to laugh about it in some way,” she says, adding that she takes comfort not only in creating stories, but in listening to them as well.

capitkwl [syilx oral storytelling laws] are “thousands and thousands of years old,” she says. “So we’ve been laughing like this for thousands of years — since time immemorial.”

“Our stories are so important, and not just our captikwl stories, [but] also our histories and also like the histories of our families, of our people and being in the community … like, how my grandparents met.”

Capq̕ʷicyaʔ published this meme in January 2021. Photo from capq̕ʷicyaʔ Instagram

Playing the part of the “little burr”

In syilx teachings, every person is given a name for a reason.

capq̕ʷicyaʔ’s name was gifted to her by her grandmother — and it actually refers to a plant you might run into when you’re walking through the bush, she says. 

“There’s like those little burrs that get stuck on your socks,” she says.

“She named me that because when I was little I was really small and delicate, sensitive, but also I was really clingy to my mom and I wouldn’t let her go anywhere without me.”

syilx People will recognize this meme by capq̕ʷicyaʔ as an inside joke rooted in captikwl (oral storytelling laws). Photo from capq̕ʷicyaʔ Instagram

As time shifts so do names, according to syilx teachings, and capq̕ʷicyaʔ says that she’s recently found new meaning in the name her grandmother gifted her. 

“The more I talked to people they were just like you have this like really nice side to you, but you also have this like really big truth-telling side that’s kind of painful sometimes,” she says. “It’s a little bit sharp, but … necessary.”

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