The Salish Sea Lantern festival brings music and light to the Sidney waterfront every year. A salmon lantern was snapped by a reader last summer, in 2018 on Sidney Pier. (Photo by Bob Orchard).

Traditional salmon designs brighten Salish Sea Lantern Festival

Children from ȽÁU,WEL,ṈEW̱ tribal school built salmon hats for festival on Sidney waterfront

Preparations for Sidney’s lantern festival are gathering pace and local children from LÁU,WEL,NEW tribal school in North Saanich have been busy building illuminated salmon hats.

Jennifer Witvliet, artistic director for the Salish Sea Lantern Festival, has run two lantern workshops in recent weeks for children attending LÁU,WEL,NEW’s SENCOTEN summer camp. Five years ago, one of the camp’s leaders and language coordinator, Renee Sampson, showed interest in lantern building activities for the children and so she and Witvliet partnered up to provide some. Witvliet initially made ball lanterns for the kids to re-create but this year’s 30 campers chose to make salmon hats.

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ArtSea is proud to be collaborating with the WSÁNEĆ First Nations over the last 4 years in the Salish Sea Lantern Festival. This year we have been working with the teachers and children from the SENĆOŦEN Summer Immersion program creating a unique illuminated paper craft for the Salish Sea Lantern Festival. The ȽÁU, WELṈEW Tribal school is located in Brentwood Bay and serves the WSÁNEĆ people which is made of 4 local bands: Tsartlip, Tsawout, Tseycum, and Pauquachin. The SENĆOŦEN Summer Immersion program works with children ages 5-12 from these communities and leads classes in their original SENĆOŦEN language. At this 2-day workshop, students decorated salmon shaped hats that will be illuminated and worn as part of their opening performance at The Salish Sea Lantern Festival. One side of the salmon hat is a traditional black and red drawing using Coast Salish design elements. On the other side, the students could create anything they desired by collaging lots of colourful bits of tissue paper. Renee Sampson and the SENĆOŦEN singers will be leading the Salish Sea Lantern procession on August 24th, wearing their lit salmon hats and singing songs about salmon in their beautiful SENĆOŦEN language.

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ALSO READ: Light up August with a lantern building workshop in Sidney

“I did the template and made the fish shapes, and then the children decorated them with tissue,” said Witvliet. “They did a beautiful job of decorating them. They do a more traditional Coast Salish design on one side, and on the other side was a more colourful and contemporary design. Basically they’re wearing a beautiful lantern hat.”

The Salish Sea Lantern Festival is run by community arts and culture group, ArtSea, and has become a favourite fixture on Sidney’s cultural calendar. This year, over 1,000 people are expected to attend and Witvliet has been building a number of lantern pieces to adorn the procession, including an almost to scale, seven-foot-long baby orca whale. The festival benefits from a SENCOTEN prayer and traditional Indigenous songs. The parade then winds along Sidney’s waterfront and pier, the colourful lanterns illuminated by the electric lights inside them, bobbing along in procession amid the growing gloom of night. ArtSea is keen to ensure an inclusive atmosphere, and Witvliet has greatly enjoyed her partnership with the summer camp.

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“We really just want to open it to all community members,” said Witvliet, noting, “I’d been wanting to open it up to the First Nations, and Renee was interested, so I wanted to really offer something for the kids, because with the kids they jump right on, so it was a really great collaboration.”

The Salish Sea Lantern Festival takes place Aug. 24 and promises music, entertainment an family-friendly fun. For more information or to volunteer visit artsea.ca.

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