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‘Unlike learning about other histories’: Stz’uminus youth collaborate on new B.C. exhibit

Click to play video: 'Cowichan man embraces modern mediums for Indigenous storytelling'
Cowichan man embraces modern mediums for Indigenous storytelling
Isaiah Harris is an Indigenous storyteller from the Cowichan Valley. He is helping to keep his culture alive in a very modern way - through film and video games. Kylie Stanton has his story. – Sep 29, 2022

Isaiah Harris is inviting British Columbians to join him on a journey through time.

The 20-year-old Stz’uminus First Nation storyteller is one of several collaborators on a new multimedia exhibit at the Cowichan Community Centre that delves into more than 150 years of colonial history.

“Learning about this history is unlike learning about other histories,” Harris explained.

“Every place in the world has its own unique story to tell, but in the case of Vancouver Island, colonization … happened not even that long ago. We’re talking 150, 200 years ago.”

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The exhibit is called Thu-It, which means ‘truth,’ and its posters are accompanied by the phrase: “Reconciliation, the journey of our generation.” Visitors have the option of free admission or an immersive, three-hour guided session.

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The exhibit is told through the perspective of Quw’utsu’n elders and presented by Social Planning Cowichan and the Quw’utsun’ Cultural Connections Society. Harris said it’s a “great opportunity” to familiarize oneself with the history of the lands they occupy.

“Not many people here even know about this history,” he told Global News. “I wish growing up that I had known a bit more about our local First Nations history and our history here on Vancouver Island.”

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Indigenous youth leaders make their voices heard on National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Harris has been fascinated by history for many years. He said he grew up hearing his nation’s oral and creation stories, but was also enchanted by European medieval history as a teenager.

He learned more about historical figures on the West Coast during a land and language course at Ladysmith Secondary School, he added, and as an adult, decided had a role to play in sharing those stories.

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“Getting to learn more about Vancouver Island’s history just made me really enthusiastic to put an emphasis on Indigenous storytelling,” he explained.

“I’m just really hoping that people will also kind of gravitate towards those stories because they just find them so fascinating.”

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Harris is now involved in the world of film and was interviewed in the Orca Cove Media documentary film Tzouhalem, which examines the life of Cowichan Chief Tzouhalem. He also narrated the film, which was directed by Leslie Bland and Harold Joe, and screened in March.

“Through this crazy course of events, I was able to be a part of the Tzouhalem documentary, the story I was so familiar with and enthusiastic about,” Harris said.

“I’ve been absorbing as much as I can from the projects that I’m a part of because I feel like if I was a bit younger I really could have benefitted from knowing more about Indigenous filmmakers, but there was no opportunity for me to learn about those things.

“Getting into this world has done a lot for me as a storyteller and just giving me the confidence to know that there is a place for Indigenous stories.”

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The public can visit the Thu-It exhibit from now until Oct. 6. The exhibit opened Sept. 6.

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