Being a business owner can be stressful at the best of times. Candace Campo comes from the Sechelt Nation and has ties to Squamish Nation. She operates Talaysay Tours— a cultural and eco-tourism experience provider of educational walking and land tours around Vancouver, Squamish, and the Sunshine Coast. When the pandemic hit in early 2020, Candace was fully booked and poised for growth.
Despite her success, she says she always felt in a place of stress: “Sometimes you could look at a business growth as your success, but in retrospect, if I carried on at the level I was doing business, it wouldn’t have been personal success or wellness from a health point of view.” Today, she is humbled to say that the pandemic has been a wake-up call, allowing her to reconsider her personal definitions of success and wellness.
Living the ‘bubble life,’ as she calls it, means more time with immediate family and more time on the land–two essentials of Indigenous self-care. “I need to ground myself. I need to be mentally strong to run this business, to support the people who work for this business.”
Candace honours the role that water plays in healing for Indigenous cultures and has been dipping into icy waters regularly for personal therapy this year.
She explains that spirit bathing, or cold swimming, has a twofold benefit–for self and community. “I go for a spirit bath in the cold river, the cold lake, and I pray for our People, I pray for our leaders, our Elders. I pray for all of my family and friends. I pray for people who are experiencing addiction, depression. When you think of others, it heals your ego because you’re not self-focused and just worried about yourself.
When you’re submersed in that cold water, and your feet are touching the earth–it just brings absolute clarity and focus,” shares Candace.
Allison Burns-Joseph of Squamish Nation works at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre in Whistler. Like many of us, Allison misses people: “I’m a real people person, and I love to interact with people face-to-face. It was definitely a change.” To deal with the isolation, Allison has taught herself to bead and practices grounding.
In addition to grounding and receiving the benefits of contact with the earth, Allison also practices spirit bathing.
“Water is so important. We’re able to use water to not only nourish our bodies but to cleanse our bodies and our minds and our souls,” she says.
Many of us live in cities and cannot access a river, lake, or ocean to spirit bathe. In this case, it is acceptable to use tap water. Allison was taught to practice cleansing with water while using the number four–a number that is magic to Squamish Nation. She honours the four cardinal directions by rushing water over herself four times.
Self-care is essential to the success of an entire community. It is not about indulgence and luxury–it can be a simple practice. Elijah Mack, owner, and operator of a Kekuli Cafe franchise in Merritt, BC, says:
Elijah feels that self-care is simply an act that reminds you who you are and grounds you in this knowledge. He keeps his mother’s advice close to his heart. She told him, “Never forget who you are and where you come from.” Originally from Nuxalk Territory around Bella Coola, Elijah learned local Nlakapamux culture from his younger brother. The latter grew up around Merritt and was able to gain protocols, traditional practices, ceremony, and the teachings of the land through elders he met in the community. He shared this knowledge with his older brother.
Now the two men hunt together–one of Elijah’s ways to practice self-care and relieve the stress of running a business during the pandemic.
Indigenous tourism operators are in it for the long haul. It may be 2024 before global travel resumes, and international visitors are again welcome.
Frank Antoine of Moccasin Trails acknowledges our collective stress and the suffering he has witnessed in his own circles. “I’ve watched a lot of people leave the tourism industry, and I’ve watched a lot of my brothers and sisters struggle through it, just like I am. It’s not easy watching people dealing with losing their businesses or their homes and the things that they value and love and worked so hard for,” he says.
Frank reflects on our tendency as humans to be self-centered until something goes wrong and return to each other during times of suffering. “The ones that are suffering now are not the animals. It’s the humans. It comes full circle. And now it’s our turn to suffer. So how do you get through that? You’d better have a belief of sustainability, of sharing–that needs to come back into the fold,” says Frank. In his language, Secwepemctsin, the word knucwentwecw means working together physically and mentally.
In 2021, we are all part of a situation we have no control over. For Frank, it is not just self-care that will see us through the pandemic but a revival of our value for the land and each other.
“It’s really your values and your goals that are going to make you or break you in this kind of world we’re dealing with now.” To keep his personal balance, Frank runs, prays, and does cultural practice, including smudging. He says,