W̱MÍYEŦEN Nature Sanctuary(wh-my-eh-then: Place of the Deer)
(Formerly Mary Lake)
Alliance with First Nations
“Everything has a purpose and that purpose is to be respected and protected for all time. You cannot own it. We have to share that moss and shade of tree with other parts of creation.” ~ Tom Sampson, T’Sartlip Elder
In 2011 we began our relationship with Tom Sampson a respected elder of the W̱JOȽEȽP (T’Sartlip) Nation and a vocal environmental advocate who served as Chief of T’Sartlip for 24 years, and chairman of the South Island Tribal Council for 22 years. His spiritual beliefs form the heart of his environmental philosophy, that acknowledges a relationship to the land that is thousands of years old.
In 2019 he became an advisor to our Board of Directors and has been instrumental in building our relationship with South Vancouver Island Indigenous communities.
In 2011 Tom and the Yellow Wolf Drummers and Singers did a dedication ceremony at W̱MÍYEŦEN Nature Sanctuary acknowledging their Coast Salish Ancestors as past stewards of the land.
Watch the video below to hear Tom Sampson speak about relationships to the land and clips form the dedication ceremony
This video was created in 2011.
In 2017 the focus changed to create a conservation area to protect the ecosystems and endangered species on the property.
Declaration of Partnership with T'Sartlip First Nation
In spring 2018 after Tom Sampson W̱JOȽEȽP (T'Sartlip) Elder's many visits to the property since 2011, he suggested we approach T'Sartlip Nation Council to become a partner on the project to support seeking funding to help retire the mortgage.
In the fall 2018 we agreed upon a Declaration of Partnership with T'Sartlip First Nation as a foundation for the protection and restoration of the lake and adjacent lands for the future generations.
This provides the opportunity for mutual collaboration to protect, restore and acknowledge the land for it’s ecological, cultural, and spiritual values.
Gathering with W̱SÁNEĆ Elders
In 2019 we had the privilege of sitting with W̱SÁNEĆ elders at the Sanctuary to hear their stories and wisdom to learn and understand more about local First Nations traditions, experiences, and worldview.
The land and waters embody the teachings that are at the core of the indigenous world view, a place where elders can share their wisdom and guide the children of future generations. This project is on the forefront of the movement towards reconciliation with First Nations Peoples offering all of the learnings and wisdom that such a commitment fosters.
"I appreciate being here today, and, uh, I have many thoughts about the land and the water. And for us, we’re here as protectors of the land. And I’m glad to see that there’s other people; hwunitum [settler/white/non-Indigenous] people, with the same kind of thought, about how do we, how do we preserve what we have left, and can we save things like the salmon and some of the plants that we, we require for medicines, and food. Ah, this is a beautiful place, and it seems like we’ve been just dropped, dropped here to the wilderness. And, on my way up, I was admiring the Oceanspray. Actually I was looking at it more as a, a harvest. I was thinking — those are things that we need for cooking salmon on a stick, and clams on a stick, and those kind of things"
Earl Claxton, Jr. SȾÁUTW̱ (Tsawout) Elder,
Committed to Two- Eyed Seeing
In Aug of 2022 our Board of Directors made a resolution to embrace two-eyed seeing in our research and restoration work.
In Mi’kmaq Elder Albert Marshall’s words, Two-Eyed Seeing or Etuaptmumk refers to “learning to see from one eye with the strengths of Indigenous knowledges and ways of knowing, and from the other eye with the strengths of western knowledges and ways of knowing – and learning to use both of these eyes together for the benefit of all.” In addition, Elder Albert reminds us that learning to see with both eyes comes with the responsibility to act on the knowledge we’ve gained.
Two-Eyed Seeing adamantly, respectfully, and passionately asks that we bring together our different ways of knowing so we can leave the world a better place for the next seven generations.
Cultivating Kinship in W̱MÍYEŦEN
“Conservation: Cultivating a True Relationship of Wholistic Care for the Land”
Gatherings that brings together people of both the settler and First Nations community to discuss their important relationship with the land and how we can work together to protect the earth from ecologically destructive practices.
We will continue relationship building by listening to and sharing words from the heart between a small core group of protectors of the land from the settler community and Coast Salish Knowledge Keepers/ Elders.
The hope is to nourish the seeds of a new attitude towards and relationship with the earth and at the same time support understanding and respect for the First Nations communities.
Knowledge Keepers/ Elders, have great concerns over the impacts of climate change and the environmental destruction which is creating negative consequences for their traditional ways – community health, food security and cultural practices. How can we work together?
Indigenous Naming Ceremony
Sacred Site Designation
May 2023 a special cultural ceremony designated the lake as a natural Sacred Site for Indigenous cultural and spiritual practices, in addition to our ongoing conservation and ecological restoration work. This ceremony gave Mary Lake the SENĆOŦEN name XÁXOĆE ̧ EEŦE XOĆEŦENOŦ which translates to “the sacred lake of the sacred woman”. This name points to the need to see women as sacred to promote restoration of harmony and healing in response to the impacts of the murdered and missing Indigenous women (MMIW).
We work in collaboration with a Council of 12 local W̱SÁNEĆ (wh-say-nich) Matriarchs – Knowledge Keepers & Respected Teachers who speak of the necessity for their communities and especially women to have access to culturally safe natural spaces to continue the ceremonies necessary for community well-being and cultural continuity.
It is the hope of Elder Tom Sampson of T’Sartlip First Nation that this project will become a model for Indigenous sacred site designations that will protect many natural places in communities throughout BC.
Coast Salish Name for Sanctuary
In recognition of our alliance with the WSÁNEC peoples the sanctuary was also renamed after the traditional name for the area.
W̱MÍYEŦEN Nature Sanctuary
(wh-my-eh-then) – Place of the deer
Logo artwork was designed by Sarah Jim a visual artist of mixed ancestry from the small village of Tseycum in W̱SÁNEĆ. She’s received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Victoria and works in the field of environmental restoration. Her creations reflect and advocate for the beautiful land, sea, and skies that the W̱SÁNEĆ have stewarded since time immemorial.
W̱MÍYEŦEN Nature Sanctuary
1772 Millstream Rd,
Victoria, BC V9B 6E4
Greater Victoria Greenbelt Society
1772 Millstream Rd.
Victoria, BC. V9B 6E4
Registered Charity BN: 11894 6953 RR0001
WSÁNEC Coast Salish
W̱MÍYEŦEN Nature Sanctuary lies within the traditional territories of the WSÁNEC (Saanich) Coast Salish Peoples.
We recognize the integral role the ancestors of the WSÁNEC Coast Salish Peoples play as past stewards of the Highlands lands.