To dream in Wet’suwet’en (an ode to Orange Shirt Day)

September 30, 2022:

I don’t know how my ancestors thought. They thought in Wet’suwet’en. 

Elders say our language is a portal into the wisdom and worldview of our ancestors. I have not been through this portal. I’ve taken a few baby steps inside but that’s it. The shining light of Wet’suwet’en fluency at the end of the long dark tunnel of intergenerational trauma is hope on the worst of days. 

Each year around Orange Shirt Day I get pretty sad. I think about all the knowledge that was lost through lifetimes of abuse. First at the hands of the priests and nuns, Indian agents and RCMP. Then at the hands of ourselves once those hurt babies returned home robbed of their culture and identity, a loss that’s sifted through the generations. 

On the other hand, this dark history and its lingering legacy make cultural resurgence beautiful to see. There are Indigenous champions of community and culture in every profession out there. I’m lucky enough to come across Indigenous leaders in technology, business and media, and from our community partners rebuilding strong thriving nations. 

As I wade through the muck and goo of decolonizing my mind and heart, I lean into this collective spirit for strength. 

For me, ChinookX is part of the wave of Indigenous resurgence that’s been rising for decades. We are working on projects that will generate revenues for communities and help protect land and culture. It’s early days for our company, but we dream of an emerging tech ecosystem designed by Indigenous ways of knowing and being. 

An emerging tech ecosystem supporting strong and sovereign Indigenous nations. 

I stand on the shoulders of my family, clan, community and nation. My band sponsored my education. My mother’s education. My sister’s education. Our community uplifts us. And we further uplift our people in return. My mother is a teacher at the high school on our reserve. My sister is almost a lawyer and aspires to be a crown prosecutor. And I’m whatever the heck I am. 

It all comes full circle. The web of life. 

I had more than a dozen Wet’suwet’en aunts and uncles who I never met. Many were taken away to either residential school or placed into white foster families. I often wonder about my likely dozens and dozens of long lost cousins, the fragments of our bloodline scattered across the province and country. I’ve met one or two here and there, often at the urban Wet’suwet’en feasts held in Vancouver each year before Christmas. 

We’re each on our journey to find the pieces of ourselves stolen before we were even born. 

These are some of the things I think about each year around Orange Shirt Day and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. I think about finding my way back to who my ancestors intended for me to be. I think about what it would be like to think in Wet’suwet’en. To dream in Wet’suwet’en. To close my eyes and see no separation between the land, the water, the sky and my soul. 

To love the land so deeply that harming her would be like harming family. 

That was the vision of my great grandfather Johnny David, who held the hereditary chief name Mikhlikhlekh, and other Wet’suwet’en ancestors who gave testimony during the precedent-setting Delgamuukw land claims court case. And while I cannot consciously think like my ancestors did, I know their wisdom runs through my blood waiting to be awoken. 

Wearing an orange shirt is a simple but powerful symbol. It’s raising our hands to the Elders, Matriarchs, artists and activists who came before. To the businesspeople, knowledge keepers, dreamers and healers. It’s remembering and honouring the survivors of residential schools and other genocidal policies who refused to let their cultures die. 

Thanks to them, the wisdom lives on in our blood memories. Thanks to them, we are still here. Thanks to them, we can still dream. 

Trevor Jang is co-founder and director of communications at ChinookX Technologies. He is Laksilyu (Small Frog) Clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation. Trevor lives on the unceded traditional territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. 

The drum in the image is painted with the First Nations Technology Council logo of Raven bringing light to the world. 

ChinookX Technologies Ltd.

Lkwugen Territories (Victoria, BC)

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