Nature is the foundation of the summer walking tours hosted by Kwantlen First Nation and even ultimately dictates whether the tours take place.
Local storyteller and educator Fern Gabriel leads tours that spotlight the history and First Nations culture of the land. The tours are centered around McMillan Island, home of the Kwantlen’s mainreserve, and Fort Langley.
In addition to stories and information Gabriel shares, there’s typically things people want to know.
“We always get questions about environment so I share stories of that,” Gabriel said.
Nature ultimately dictates whether the walking tours go ahead as scheduled.
“If there is a heat wave, we definitely will not do the walks, and severe smoke,” she explained.
There’s not need to sign up in advance. She adapts the tours based on the size of the group, the dynamic and sometimes the time of year.
“Even if there’s one person, I still do the tour,” she said.
The tours, which involve about one kilometre of walking, have kept growing in popularity each year they are offered.
Fort Langley tours are scheduled for 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 10, 17, 24 and 31 as well as Sept. 7. The starting point is the lelem Arts and Culture Cafe.
The tours have expanded to the north side of the Fraser River, being offered at Whonnock Lake Sept. 2, 9 and 16 at 1 and 2 p.m. each of those days. The tours are a partnership between Kwantlen First Nation, its business arm Seyem’ Quantlen, the Coast Salish Arts and Cultural Society, lelem Arts and Culture Cafe, and the Port of Vancouver. Learn more.
While the primary reserve is in Fort Langley, Kwantlen First Nation has reserve lands and traditional territories well to the north of the Fraser River.
Gabriel explained the significance and importance of the Whonnock area to the Kwantlen First Nation at last autumn’s tours.
“A land of plenty and abundance,” she said. “The location of the pink salmon.”
And salmon, she said, represent determination, intuition and resilience.
“It’s the only animal that can climb mountains without arms or legs.”
She also explained the significance that the peaks of Golden Ears hold for her and her people:
“Kwantlen’s mountain,” she said. “Twin brothers who were transformed into stone after fighting over the love of a woman,” she says.
As for the woman?
“Transformed into a lake,” she says. “With the ability to capture and sweep people under.”
Gabriel explained why this story is important, and how it relates to Kwantlen culture, and the laws by which they live: Respect for one another, and one’s surroundings.
“It’s easy to be deceitful, hateful, and cranky. It takes a lot of work to be respectful,” she said.