BBA students explore meanings of land

Exploring food and medicine

Land, life and family are intrinsically bound together in the meanings of land held by First Nations.  That was one of the key messages passed along to Bachelor of Business Administration students this week by Asma-Na-Hi Antoine (RRU’s Indigenous Education Manager) and Kenneth Elliott (Cowichan Elder).  The meeting was the first of a three-part series on the meaning of land, which explores land conflicts that arise from differences in the way that land and resources are perceived and used.

On the shore of Esquimalt Lagoon, Asma-Na-Hi launched the Meaning of Land series with a traditional smudging of sage and sweetgrass to ceremonially cleanse and prepare fourteen BBA students.  In the Gathering Room at Sneq’wa e’lun, Asma-Na-Hi traced the history of the land on which now sits Royal Roads University—the families that lived with this land, and the culture, song and medicine that the land furnished and inspired.  Through Asma’s stories, students learned of the strong bonds between family and place, and how land, family and life are intertwined.  Students also confronted the significance of dislocation and displacement brought about by European settlement and industry that disrupted the bonds of family and place.

Cowichan Elder Kenneth Elliott led participants on a walking tour along Colwood Creek, sharing traditional plant knowledge.  From licorice fern for a sore throat to sword fern for aching muscles; from Oregon grape for the blood to cedar bark for weaving. The abundance of medicine and food supported by this land brought sustenance to the families who lived and visited here. 

According to Mabel Marin, one of four BBA student organizers of the series, “It's curious how we don't stop to think about how we see, deal, and respect the land we are in. More than that, we don't even know if our feeling about the land corresponds to our neighbour's thinking. It's been amazing to learn how differently each one of us perceives and uses the spaces around us.”

The Meaning of Land series continues in March with a visit to a local forestry company to learn how industry is balancing the economic, environmental and cultural values of land.   The series concludes with a kayak journey through Clayoquot Sound to Meares Island—site of one of the most famous land use conflicts in B.C. history—to learn more about First Nations’ and community forestry practices today.  The project is led by four BBA students:  Brayden Pelham, Jaimee Imrie, Mabel Marin and Michaela Melosky.