When Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House staff initiated the Waacus Salee project last fall, they had several goals in mind: Reflecting on how things are done in their organization and finding ways to align them better with Indigenous principles as well as creating long-term connections with Indigenous groups in the neighbourhood.
Waacus Salee, which means “Frog Spirit” in the Salish language, is a project funded by Heritage Canada and co-led by Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House (FHNH) and the Metro Vancouver Aboriginal Executive Council (MVAEC).
“We wanted a strong partner in the Indigenous community who could pioneer connections with other Indigenous organizations and families. It was important for us to receive guidance and advice throughout the project so that we can adjust our work accordingly to create long-lasting connections,” says Gloria Tsui, Intergenerational Coordinator at FHNH and project manager of Waacus Salee.
The project offers a variety of activities where community members can join in:
The Advisory Circle takes place every three months and is all about sharing knowledge and connecting with other organizations, such as Kiwassa Neighbourhood House, the Urban Native Youth Association, Vancouver Coastal Health and the Vancouver Public Library, and contributing ideas on how the Indigenous community in Vancouver can be served better. Regular All-Nations Drum Circles, Cook-Alongs and cultural excursions are also part of “Frog Spirit”.
“One of our highlights was to plant an Indigenous garden at the Clinton Park Fieldhouse where Lori Snyder, a Métis herbalist, shared her wisdom with us. It was amazing to learn about native plants and how they can serve as medicine. We will also create multilingual signage for the garden so that everyone can enjoy it,” says Gloria.
Another important piece of Waacus Salee is the workshops on Decolonization and Indigenization led by Norm Leech, executive director at the Vancouver Aboriginal Community Policing Centre. In the workshops, participants gain cultural competence in bridging the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities through a journey of self-reflection, healing and decolonization.
Has the project had the desired impact? “People are finding ways to reconnect with their own roots and become more connected with the challenges faced by the Indigenous community in Vancouver and how to be an active part in the Truth and Reconciliation Movement,” says Gloria. “We are hoping that the relationships we have created will continue to flourish after the project will end in September.”
“The advice and guidance we have received from Indigenous organizations is invaluable. FHNH will continue to be a safe
space for everyone and lead the way with meaningful conversations.”