All words and images by Sarah Etoile.
ʔukᵂaqiłs Sarah. Diitiidʔaaʔaqsp. I’m a First Nations photographer, steward and storyteller based on Vancouver Island. This week as @tourismnanaimo’s #guestagrammer I will be sharing Saysutshun, otherwise known as Newcastle Island, which is unceded Snuneymuxw Territory.
My classmates and I paddled from the harbour to Saysutshun, and were graciously welcomed by Snuneymuxw First Nation by this totem pole. Our host, who also provides guided tours of Saysutshun, shared the history and connections with this island.
After our welcome and guided tour with Snuneymuxw First Nation, we were allowed to wander around before lunch. Most of us walked along the waterfront, which are a beautiful blend of various tones. Although beautiful, this particular section was slippery due to the algae on the rocks.
Within a few minutes, I caught up with my friend Candace — who was having fun exploring the different textured beaches of Saysutshun. From sand to stone, monotone to various hues of browns and greens. In the background you can see Protection Island. During certain low tides, you can walk between the two islands.
Candace and I continued to walk along the beach. She had fun running along the driftwood and rocks between Brownie Bay and Kanaka Bay. I, myself, stuck to the beach and tried to piece together the stories, that our host shared with us, and territory that it is connected with.
There are a few trails along Saysutshun. We didn’t have enough time to explore all of them, but what we did see was beautiful. Our little group made it to McKay Point and back in time for lunch — we had kač̓as (barbecue salmon). Whenever I go back, I would spend the night or two (at the campground) and explore the island properly.
After lunch, we sang some songs from our nations, and headed back to the main island. Unlike our paddle to Saysutshun, which was in the morning, it was torrential downpour and made for a very interesting journey back. You can see the rain droplets on the ocean behind this beautiful paddle.
Although the paddle between the harbour and Saysutshun is short, around 20-25 minutes, it seemed like an eternity with the rainfall. To make our journey back go by quickly, we sang paddle songs from our nations. This was motivation to paddle faster and get out the rain.
Sarah Étoile is a First Nations Photographer, Steward and Storyteller based on Vancouver Island. She takes pride in being both Kwakwaka’wakw and Nuu-chah-nulth. Sarah was raised with First Nations values; language, culture, and traditions. She holds these values closely and respectfully shares them through modern technology. Her primary trades are photography, online branding and marketing, and tourism.
Sarah’s interests are linguistics, cultural and language revitalization, and environmental stewardship. In recent years, Sarah has been involved in Eco-Tourism. It started with exploring the West Coast and Mid-Vancouver Island taking photos. She then participated in an Aboriginal Eco-Tourism Program through Vancouver Island University and North Island College. In which, she graduated with a certificate in Adventure and Recreation Tourism.
A primary goal of Sarah’s is to incorporate First Nations values throughout her work. Whether that be respect for the environment or First Nations territories, cultures, and languages. Hišukʔiš c̓awaak — Everything is one, everything is interconnected.