Tooth Full of Wisdom

Tooth Full of Wisdom was a site-dialogical engagement with Saysutshun Island, traditional healing place for Snuneymuxw People,  on June 11, 2023.

A pair of Love Teeth, 몸“mohm” meaning ‘body’ and 맘“mahm” meaning ‘spirit/mind in Korean, imagined de-colonial relations with a group of people together. Art Action Earwig with Snuneymuxw knowledge-keeper David Bodaly and Stz’uminus/ Penelakut knowledge-keeper Patrick Aleck Jr, led the group in songs, drumming and performances, as part of a journey of stories, movement, and meaningful dialogue with the land.

Dave Bodaly, Snuneymouxw knowledge keeper, stands on short cut grass, a patchwork of green and brown that recedes to the sea shore. Dave is wearing a conical cedar hat and blanket over his shoulders with red and yellow stripes. Mid-song, Dave’s drum beater is poised over his drum. A deep blue sky fills the top two-thirds of the photo.

Participants gathered at the Welcome Pole with Snuneymuxw knowledge keeper Dave Bodaly’s drumming and singing, welcoming us to the land.

A circle of people sit on the grass under a towering, two trunked, Garry Oak that casts a leaf mottled shade on them. Beyond the tree, small boats float on Mark Bay and downtown Nanaimo looms on the opposite shore.Wryly stands behind the circle on the right, holding a guitar. To Wryly’s left, Minah sits in the circle, speaking.

We sat at a Garry Oak meadow where Minah led a group grounding. Stz’uminus/ Penelakut knowledge keeper Patrick Aleck jr. (Xwaluputhut) led us in The Equality Song. Wryly and Minah shared a song about climate grief, My Carbon Body.

Mohm and Mahm, as wire and crochet heart teeth, interact with sandstone pulp stones, sitting in the grass. A mottled shadow cast from the Garry Oak twists up the grass to meet them. Trees and blue sky shine behind them.

Wryly and Minah then were transformed into 몸(Mohm) and 맘(Mahm) and led a Love Tooth engagement with cylinders of sandstone that had been extracted from the land for use as pulp stones.

Mid-song, Patrick Aleck Jr.’s drum beater is poised over his drum. The drum-head has an intricate red dye pattern. Dave Bodaly claps and sings behind Patrick.

We crossed the island to the Spirit Portal where Patrick led us in another song, Uy’ Shqwuluwun (Good Feelings).

Wryly and Minah were again transformed into 몸(Mohm) and 맘(Mahm) and shared a Love Tooth performance about loss and healing, engaging with the sandstone shore, Spirit Portal.

A dolphin cloud floats in blue sky over distant coastal mountains and the Salish Sea. Invisibly, an eagle circles near the cloud. At center, Wryly and Minah look away to the horizon. They stand over Mohm and Mahm, crumpled crown to crown, and the carved sandstone of the shore. Wryly’s right arm is raised and forms a loose ball. Driftwood rests in the foreground.

A dolphin cloud floats in blue sky over distant coastal mountains and the Salish Sea. Invisibly, an eagle circles near the cloud. At center, Wryly and Minah look away to the horizon. They stand over 몸(Mohm) and 맘(Mahm), crumpled crown to crown, and the carved sandstone of the shore. 

Wryly and Minah then shared another song in Korean language.

Deep gratitude to Dave Bodaly who welcomed us to the Snuneymuxw land. Our creative dialogues with the place wouldn’t be possible without the many meaningful stories about this special place offered by Dave. Many traditional stories Dave shared helped us see broader across the water from where we were standing, as the stories fluidly and seamlessly connected and moved through the land and water.

Big thank you to Pstz’uminus & Penelakut knowledge-keeper Patrick Aleck Jr. for his powerful drumming, singing and teachings.

Photos by Jesse Birch.

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