June is National Indigenous History Month. It is a time for all Canadians — Indigenous, non-Indigenous and newcomers — to reflect upon and learn the history, sacrifices, cultures, contributions, and strength of First Nations, Inuit and Metis people. Throughout the month of June, CityNews will profile Indigenous people, and share their stories and voices, so that we can celebrate the difference they have made in their communities and to our country.
June 8: Today, we celebrate Tsatsu Stalqayu
Tsatsu Stalqayu, in English, Coastal Wolf Pack. The name translates directly as “Beach Wolves, because our language has no word for coast or coastal,” explains member Francis James.
“We have been singing and dancing to our Coast Salish music our whole lives.”
Tsatsu Stalqayu is a traditional Coast Salish song-and-dance group. The group has more than 50 members, both male and female, of all ages. The variation in age and gender allow for more song, dance and stories to be shared on stage. The members represent Indigenous communities from the Coast and throughout the Fraser Valley in British Columbia including Musqueam, Nanaimo, Kuper Island, Cowichan, Tsartlip, and Skway, to name a few. They all come from different homes but they all come from one creator, which they believe brings them all together to sing and dance as one.
“We have been singing and dancing to our Coast Salish music our whole lives. Our Tsatsu Stalqyu family started sharing a very few songs and dances with the public in the fall of 2009 and since then our three generation branch of Tsatsu Stalqyu family group has composed our own songs and dances with many different events across the Lower Mainland,” James said.
Some of the dances the group shares tell traditional stories of how Indigenous people were pre-contact (before the arrival of Europeans).
“Some of our dances relate to some of our traditional stories of how our people were before contact. One of them would be the story of look-out men or runners; they would be like somebody that stood guard at the farthest part of our territories and run messages from tribe to tribe inviting them for ceremonies or some sort. So, we pay respect to that, someone almost all up and down the coast they would have that role before contact,” James said.
The Coastal Wolf Pack gives a sense of pride and brings belonging to the Coast Salish territories. It brings happiness and joy to their hearts to sing, dance and pray for everyone of us who are here today.
“We feel it is very important to share our songs dances with everyone in the public so people know that the land they are on.”
“We feel it is very important to share our songs dances with everyone in the public so people know that the land they are on, the Lower Mainland and bottom half of Vancouver Island, is Coast Salish territory. That we are still alive, and still here, [and] that our culture is strong and powerful,” James said.
Follow Tsatsu Stalqyu (Coastal Wolf Pack) on Facebook to learn more about the group.