Thanksgiving is a day I’ve come to appreciate more with age. I didn’t realize that Thanksgiving was an important part of my life until just this week my friend asked whether Thanksgiving is important to me.
In reflecting why I thought Thanksgiving is important to me and my family I was pulled back to a single memory from Thanksgiving 2001. I had just returned from an international Indigenous dance festival in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with my Ts’msyen dance group. My mom had waited for me to return to have Thanksgiving dinner. I told my mom that they could have eaten without me, but she wanted us to eat together. I’ve come to realize that Thanksgiving is the one day where we can just get together to give thanks that we have each other in our lives.
I have much to be thankful for in my life. I am blessed to have a loving family, caring friends, housing, a good job, and a strong sense of self. I’m thankful for even the most minute of details in my life like having the ability to drink water from the tap.
Last year I was living in Kampala, Uganda and I couldn’t drink water directly from the tap. I boiled every single glass of water that I drank at home. Drinking water is such a basic thing to be thankful for and in many parts of the world people have to travel miles to get water. Traveling throughout Uganda I often saw men on their boda bodas (motorbikes) with jerry cans on their way to get water.
Water is something that I have taken for granted living in major city centres all of my life. I realize that there are water issues in remote Indigenous communities in Canada too. I haven’t had to experience this issue directly, but think about Indigenous peoples who don’t have direct access to clean drinking water and think about how important this basic necessity in life.
The importance and gratitude I have for water comes from what it means to be Ts’msyen. As I learned from Ts’msyen artist Roy Henry Vickers, in our language Ts’msyen comes from the word “yain” meaning cloud and “wxsyain” meaning rain. And “Tsim” means “in”. All together Ts’msyen translates to ‘in the rainclouds’.
If you’ve ever been up to Prince Rupert (Kaien) or Lax Kw'alaams you’ll soon realize the importance of rain and water and how it is the lifeblood of our existence. For us, as much as the salmon means life, water is the structure for which provides life. Water is at the core of our entire identity as Ts’msyen. For these reasons, I am very thankful for water this year.
Wil lie yu-t noon,