I first heard the term “sense of place” when I was introduced to Wes Gietz and Corinna Stevenson. I was on Corinna’s land, a place that holds many powerful memories for me, as I am positive it does for all people who have had the privilege of connecting to it. It is hard to put into words how rich this place is. The land has an energy of its own, one could almost say it knows you are there. You can feel the stories beneath its blanket of moss, as if the land is speaking to you. The edge of the land meets the Salmon River, often rushing by as if to get somewhere in a hurry. This place is alive. Alive in a deeper sense than just the flora and fauna are living things. This place is almost sentient, able to perceive and feel. It listens to you as you share your stories, as you laugh with others, and as you shed tears. This land, this place, has connected with people who have placed their feet upon it since time began.
Stories of the land are powerful in giving one a sense of place. Aboriginal stories are used to teach, but also to put the person as close as they possibly can be to that place on the landscape (Marker, 2015). Listening to Michael Marker, a professor and Indigenous scholar at the University of British Columbia, this past October has encouraged me to seek out local stories to bring my students as close as possible to the land.
Many children I have had the privilege to teach in the past have drawn an immediate connection to the story of the big rock, deepening their relationship with their landscape.
One legend has it that a boastful grizzly bear turned to stone after not heeding the Great Spirits advice and just failing to complete his attempt to jump from the mainland to Vancouver Island. The tide was high and his back foot touched the water and as the Great Spirit warned the bear turned to stone. Grizzly bears are plentiful along the mainland coastal inlets but none are found on Vancouver Island (B.C. Travel, 1994).
Another legend tells a different story of the big rock:
I am currently teaching on the land of the Coast Salish peoples and am eagerly awaiting the arrival of Legends and Teachings of Xeel’s, the Creator by Ellen Rice White (Kwulasulwut), a book of traditional Coast Salish stories. I hope that by sharing these stories with my students we will build stronger connections to the land on which we walk.
B.C. Travel (1994). A brief history of the Campbell River area. Retrieved from: http://www.bctravel.com/ni/camphist.html
Michael Marker. (2015). The wonders of nature research day. Personal Collection of Michael Marker, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C.