“They say that the one-headed serpent is not far from here,” says Fern Gabriel, of the Kwantlen First Nation.
She looks across the water wistfully.
“If you ventured out there, you would find him.”
An elder, she adds, once told her “he went to go sit on a log in the woods and the log took off.”
It’s one of a number of stories Gabriel shared on the shores of Whonnock Lake on Saturday, for the first of three tours.
“We haven’t done this here before,” she says. “But we’ve done it in Fort Langley.”
It seems the weather kept some people from attending the tour on Saturday, but Gabriel doesn’t seem to mind.
“Rain is cleansing, and it’s good for you,” she said.
“Where water meets land, it’s a healing place, so if you’re not feeling good, or you’re having a bad day it’s good to come to where water meets land, and put your feet in the water,” she says.
While their primary reserve is in Fort Langley, the 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.
“A land of plenty and abundance,” she says. “The location of the pink salmon.”
And salmon, she says, represent determination, intuition and resilience.
Why? “It’s the only animal that can climb mountains without arms or legs.”
She also explains the significance that the peaks of Golden Ears hold for her and her people:
“Kwantlen’s mountain,” she says. “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 says.
“Health, happiness, humbleness, generosity, generation, forgiveness and understanding. We live by those seven laws within ourselves and it permeates out.”
On Sept. 24, and Oct. 1, Gabriel will once again host walking and story tours at Whonnock Lake, at 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. on both dates.
For more information, visit coastsalishtourism.ca.
Kwantlen First Nation series:
Sharing the tales, free summer walking tours