Artist and ethnobotanist T’uy’t’tanat-Cease Wyss was named the 2018 Indigenous storyteller in residence at the Vancouver Public Library earlier this month.
Through the residency she wants to raise awareness about the stories of Squamish women from pre-contact to current times.
“The women in our nation have stood in the shadows for a long time for many reasons. I really want to highlight them and talk about how inspiring the women of our nation have been for me and other women. The teachings they pass on from every generation really resonate and we continue today to carry those stories that we developed at one time from them,” Wyss said.
Her diverse heritage includes Skwxwu7mesh, Sto:lo, Irish-Métis, Hawaiian and Swiss.
She is working on a research piece about The Great Fire on June 13, 1886 in Vancouver. Indigenous people from the Squamish Nation living on the North Shore of Vancouver saw the flames and “got into canoes, paddled all through the night and rescued people.”
She hopes to collect stories from descendants of the survivors and rescuers that witnessed The Great Fire and knows those stories exist. “When some of my community members shared a story at an event in Stanley Park a woman came forward and was quite emotional and shared with my community members that she was alive in her mind because our women rescued her ancestors. I would love to hear stories that may have been passed on from their family members. I think it’s important stories connect our communities in a good way.”
She is one of the contributors to a collection of short stories called Sustenance: Writers from BC and Beyond on the Subject of Food, where she writes about her experiences fishing and processing salmon in her grandmother’s traditional territory on the Fraser River and in camps along the Capilano River as a child.
Wyss is working on a City of Vancouver public art collaboration called Constellation of Remediation to remediate former gas station sites using plants and Indigenous methods of sustainable agriculture. She helped create public art as part of the Stanley Park Environmental Art Project after a storm devastated Stanley Park in 2006 and also leads ‘plant walks’ through the park.
Wyss recently co-authored Journey to Kaho’olawe. The book covers more than two centuries of the Kanaka family’s migration to the Pacific Northwest coast.
Another book she is co-authoring with her mother chronicles stories of her family and ties to Vancouver’s historic Kanaka Ranch, which was located in Coal Harbour until the early 1900s.
Wyss will be sharing stories at the VPL’s Central Branch as part of a launch event on Thursday evening starting at 7 p.m.