Éy St’elmexw St’elt’ílém - GOOD MEDICINE SONGS
Chapter 2 - 2021/2022
Éy St’élmexw St’elt’ílém - Good Medicine Songs (GMS) is a group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people who collaborate to create and share bilingual songs in the traditional language of the Stó:lō First Nation, Halq’eméylem, and English. This unique, cross-cultural performing group promotes revitalization of Halq’eméylem, and inspires reconciliation, belonging and unity.
In January 2021, we were desolated to lose our dear linguist and champion, Dr. Stelomethet Ethel Gardner. But her spirit kept the project alive in our hearts. Despite COVID disruptions, in spring 2021 we decided to go ahead and do a second songwriting retreat, even though we had no funding. After all, our beloved Elder, Dr. Síyamiyatelíyót Elizabeth Phillips, was in full support and we wanted to take advantage of the opportunity. In August we gathered back at Forest Echoes Cabins on Cultus Lake. We welcomed Dr. Lolehawk Laura Buker, a close friend and colleague of Stelomethet, into our songwriting family.
The songwriting ancestors blessed our work, and we emerged with three new songs: "Chowiyes-Xwithet / Rise Up-Wake Up" is dedicated to the children lost to residential schools; "Stó:lō Siam Siyáye / River My Dear Friend" pays tribute to the river running through our lives; "Lets’e ó Sqwálewel / Unity" celebrates the strength we have when we join together in common cause. We were thrilled to include our new friends, Kanatal (Taiwan), to sing and play on this track. In 2022, the Stó:lō Shxwelí Language Program (SSLP) provided funding to allow us to go into the studio and record the songs and produce the Song/Storybook.
Spring and summer saw the Good Medicine Songs singers performing at a wonderful series of events: the Chilliwack Canada Day celebrations; the Mission Folk Festival mainstage; the Orange Shirt Day Service at St Andrew's Wesley Cathedral in Vancouver, and the Chilliwack Museum and Archives. And thanks to support from SSLP, we returned to Forest Echoes for our third songwriting retreat which gave birth to another three songs--bringing the total to ten songs--enough for an album.
The highlight of our season was a year in the making. On September 29th, 2022 the Chowiyes-Xwithet / Rise Up-Wake Up event took place at the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) Gathering Place - Chilliwack. It was hosted by the Good Medicine Songs family, to honour the spirit of children lost to residential schools, survivors and family members, and to celebrate the 2nd National Day of Truth and Reconciliation. The Gathering Place was filled with people from throughout the community: Stó:lō Elders, singers and drummers, the UFV president, students and faculty, families and many, many more. This is a performance by GMS of the title song.
Special thanks goes to the University of the Fraser Valley, and our sponsor partners, Tire Stewardship BC and the BC Used Oil Management Association, for supporting and bringing this historic event into being. Thank you everyone!