Participants in NIȽ TU,O’s Culture Camp connect with Coast Salish culture through a mural project with elders Kathy and Doug LaFortune.

(Shown above, NIȽ TU,O staff and youth participating in Culture Camps work on mural in NIȽ TU,O’s Cultural Building)

This summer’s Culture Camp by NIȽ TU,O includes a special offering by elders Kathy and Doug LaFortune: a mural painting project where the kids call the shots.

NIȽ TU,O’s Culture Camps are a place where kids who are in care or otherwise affiliated with NIȽ TU,O can connect with the Coast Salish worldview. NIȽ TU,O hosts camps in spring, summer, and on pro-D days throughout the year.

The camps offer a variety of activities for Coast Salish youth, such as outdoor activities on the land which establishes connections with plant and animal relatives, to remind them they belong to a culture that has lived in the area since time immemorial. In addition to cultural activities, this year’s summer camp includes plenty of fun including waterslides at Tsawwassen, forest exploration at Peter Pan Park, and blackberry picking and jam making.

The mural project with elders Kathy and Doug LaFortune offers something special for the youth – an opportunity to connect with Coast Salish artistry. Kathy shares, “In our culture the people are all very artistic.” Participating in this project “gives them a sense of who they are,” and “they get a sense of pride and accomplishment for themselves.”

The mural includes an array of animal relatives with ties to Coast Salish culture, such as an orca, a raven, a heron, and a wolf.

While Doug LaFortune creates the initial sketches for the mural, it is the kids who call the shots. They paint all day with little direction, choosing their own colors and making requests of Doug as needed. In Doug and Kathy’s words, “it’s all done under their jurisdiction, under their vision of what they’d like to see.” Doug and Kathy are happy to see them leading the way, explaining “we really want to allow them to find who they are, find their art, and express themselves in a good way.”

This project represents a full-circle moment for Doug LaFortune. Kathy shares, “Doug as a child was in foster care himself. He told me a story that when he was in school the only project he excelled in was art.” She continues, “It gave him a sense of happiness and pride.”

NIȽ TU,O is proud to work with Kathy and Doug LaFortune to help instill happiness and pride in today’s Coast Salish youth through Coast Salish artistry.

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