Cultural Burning Ceremony 2023

In early May 2023, the islanders were gifted with a powerful cultural burning ceremony. Qualicum hereditary Chief Mark Recalma and his sister Kim Recalma-Clutesi, hosted the event. The burning was in response to someone asking Kim, "how can our community best honour the Indigenous heritage of the island and heal the past?"

Kim responded that we needed to do a ritual burning for the ancestors here on the island — a that ceremony involves feeding the ancestors plates of food that are then burned in a ritual fire. The food is then “multiplied” and shared among all the ancestors. This ceremony is ancient in the Salish world.  

The event was guided by Willie Pierre from Katzie and Nanaimo/Cowichan Siem Bill White.

Over 120 islanders attended and about 25 people from local Nations.   

The islanders brought blankets to burn, offering of berries and shoots, and contributed by making 60 plates and several platters on which foods for the ancestors were piled.

Elder Bill White.
Photo: Rocky Sampson

Plates contributed by Xwe'etay/
Lasqueti community members for burning. 
Photo: John Martin

Putting on this event reflects Chief Mark’s and Kim their deep sense of responsiblity towards the ancestors of our island and also an appreciation for the work of the XLAP project. 

The following prayer and article were written by Bill White to help us understand the cultural burning that we were privileged to witness last May. Bill is the Snuneymuxw Sulalewh/Elder who was invited by Hereditary leaders Mark Recalma and Kim Recalma-Clutesi to help oversee the burning ceremony. Bill is also the Cultural Advisor to several organizations and we are grateful for his words. Bill shared that, “There are huge regulations about not writing about these things. But at the same time, we must honour the gifts and teachings of the ancestors.”

​Since the burning, islanders have been sharing their deep feelings about the ritual. This article was published in the local newsletter, and is an example of how profoundly moved we are by being able to witness this cultural work. 


A Coast Salish Prayer -  Bill White

Creator, we thank you for this day
Ancestors we thank you for walking before us
Ancestors we thank you for walking behind us
Make your minds strong!
Behold it is a time of change!
Behold it is a time of transformation!
It is the old people who have saved
the teachings from ages past
It is the old people who have saved the songs of our ancestors,
of the Creator
It is the words of the Creator, of the ancestors brought forward for a new time and a new place
With great humility we thank you for these gifts
Change for self, Change for the community has been foretold and will like the wind be persistent.
Change and transformation is powerful and can be frightening
Make your Minds Strong!
The Creator has provided songs for such things
The Creator has provided dances for such things
The Creator has provided words for such things
The old people, the ancestors knew of the times of change and the wind blows,
and the teachings and the songs flow
and the winds blow,
hear the wind, hear the songs
Behold it is a time of change!
Behold it is a time of transformation!

1 I have been lucky enough to work with and or develop programmes which involved Sulxwane/Sulalewq, and the prayer is an attempt to frame their teachings.

Click here to read Bill White's article on Yo-Kwels, and find a list of additional readings.