As I approached the Swan Lake Provincial Park day use area, my senses were awakened. Colourful tapestries were hanging from the trees, a fire smoldered in the central gathering place, rhythmic drumming blended with the rustling trees, and smells of traditional foods wafted towards me, making my stomach growl. Before I knew it, I was fully immersed in the Kema Experience.
Kema, meaning a “a good place in nature,” is an innovative space that empowers people to feel rooted, connected, transformed, and energized through the fusion of contemporary art with Indigenous culture. Through a wonderful partnership with Doig River First Nation, two events were hosted in Beatton and Swan Lake Provincial Parks, engaging local community members and visitors to learn about Dane-zaa history, culture and worldviews.
Visitors were able to experience these parks – located in traditional Treaty 8 Territory – in a whole new way. As an exploration of Dane-zaa culture, participants learned, inquired, and played through multi-sensory and interactive exhibits. While some visitors revealed their creative side through painting and beading, others embraced the past by touching ancient artifacts. Some chose to listen and learn, enjoying a guided walk or beautiful story shared by an elder, while others – including me – found new friends in the “kitchen” and thoroughly enjoyed freshly made bannock, dried meats, and traditional teas made from local plants. Over the two weekends, the Kema Experience was like a choose your own adventure – each day we saw, heard, smelled, and experienced something different.
At its very core, the Kema Experience was reconciliation in action. Everyone was invited to participate, explore their own interests, and encouraged to ask questions Together we learned about an incredible nation and the rich culture that exists today. One visitor remarked that they “felt very welcomed by the community”. Another was grateful for the teachings, and the “amazing art, stories, foods and artifacts to discover”. Even visitors who traveled from Kazakstan recognized connections to their own heritage and customs.
As I left the event my mind, body, heart, (and stomach) were full. I was grateful for the lessons I had learned, inspired by the positive comments I heard, and overjoyed to be a part of Doig River First Nation’s Kema Experience. I look forward to future events, but until then, I endeavor to find my Kema – my good place in nature – wherever I happen to be.
These events were made possible with funding from the sale and renewals of BC Parks licence plates. These funds support diverse projects related to conservation, community engagement and Indigenous relations.
- To find out how the BC Parks Licence Plate Program is changing parks and communities across the province, visit http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/licence-plates/
- To learn more about The Kema Experience, watch this short highlight piece by CJDC-TV – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qUxm87kjWo&feature=youtu.be