While we are now a modern society, our rich traditions and
culture remain woven throughout our culture. Some of
our traditional customs and practices have changed –
historically imposed but now increasingly by choice.
We are adapting to new realities, and attitudes towards our
traditions and teachings vary among our members.
Some have maintainted our customs throughout their
lives, others are coming back to it, and still others
say 'no thanks'. However, most of
us do not want to stop being Cowichan.
We still engage in many of our traditional rites and
ceremonies. We still have a strong tradition of
community. We have many artists who have carried on the
tradition of carving, canoe building, singing, and
dancing. Other Cowichan artists capture our history and
traditions in their artwork. Our Elders are actively
involved in passing on the teachings of our ancestors through
telling stories. We still fish by spear, although we
also employ modern equipment as well. We still harvest
traditional foods and plants for food and ceremonial
purposes. We smoke or cure salmon and prepare other
foods in the traditional way.
Language is the cornerstone of our culture.
Hul’qumi’num, as with any language,
embodies all our thoughts, beliefs, myths and
institutions. Within it is reflected everything we have
produced and contributed to the world. It is of
paramount concern that we preserve our language.
Overcoming the legacy of colonialism, residential schools, and
other oppressive measures is a long and challenging
process. There was a lot of damage done to our mental
and emotional well-being, and that is the biggest challenge we have
But in the 25 years or so that we have been allowed some degree
of self-determination, we have come a long way. We now
provide a myriad of member services, we have an economic
development company that provides job and training opportunities
and gradually adds to our own-source revenue. More of
our young people are staying in school and getting
jobs. Healthy lifestyles are gradually being
Nevertheless, huge challenges remain. Many of our
members are still unemployed, there is inadequate housing for our
members, funding is an eternal struggle, racism and discrimination
still exists. Recognition, and more importantly,
respect for our culture and sovereignty remains a significant
barrier to being accepted by society at large.
Self-government and the right to determine what is best for our
members still elude us. However we will