Skip to content

Surrounded by First Nations culture

'Squamish Nation: Stories from the Heart' film to premiere Saturday

When Squamish Nation elders speak, the past comes to life. Their stories weave together images of a vibrant culture that that spans thousands of years. And when elders speak, people like Helmet Manzl listen.

The Squamish Historical Society enlisted Manzl to produce the film Squamish Nation: Stories from the Heart, which is premiering Saturday (Feb. 28) at 7 p.m. at Totem Hall.

"The Squamish Historical Society is very excited and truly honoured to be working alongside the Squamish Nation preserving and sharing their local history with our membership and our community," said SHS president Bianca Peters. "By the end of the film, you feel like you have been brought into to the heart of a large extended family you never knew you had."

For nearly a year in the name of saving local cultural history, Manzl and Alice Guss, Squamish Nation member, have been gathering stories for the film.

This film is chance to get a taste of Squamish Nation history. We have been here for well over 6,000 years and I was so tickled to share some of our stories," said Guss, whose traditional name is Tsawaysia Way Spukwus, which means bald eagle.

The film is a compilation of stories of local First Nations families from the last century to the present. Manzl said making the film was an experience he will not soon forget.

"The Squamish Nation opened their doors to me and people were extremely generous with their time, family photos and resources," Manzl said.

The film starts with reflections from elders of the past drawn from Squamish Nation archives and moves to the voices of today's elders. Manzl filmed elders like Bob Baker in his early 80s, who speaks about the importance of language.

"There is a desire to keep the Squamish Nation language going and elders like Alex Williams are one of the few who speak the language fluently," Manzl said.

As the wisdom from the elders resonates on screen, the film focuses on the next generation. The younger band members now in their 50s share what it was like to grow up in Squamish and the importance of culture.

"I had an opportunity to attend a workshop that taught traditional singing and dancing to young mothers and their babies. I was in the middle of it and I was moved by these moms and kids singing all these old songs," Manzl said.

Manzl discovered that music and dance are an integral part of Squamish Nation culture. In fact, the soundtrack to the film is entirely original.

"All of the songs you hear in the film are entirely original. The Harry family came up and we taped all these old Squamish songs one afternoon. It was beautiful to watch Gwen Harry, the matriarch of the family sing," he said.

Not unlike the Squamish nation itself, the film continues to traipse through history with the purpose of showing that First Nations culture is thriving in Squamish. From the First Nations snowboard team to today's cultural initiatives, the film ends with a look ahead.

"The message is simply that First Nations culture is alive and well here in Squamish. It is being passed onto the youngest generation," Manzl said.

The film has all ready been pre-screened and endorsed by the Squamish Nation Elders and Bobsleigh Team and a request for the film to be aired at the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre in Whistler has all ready been made.

"We want to show the Squamish community this culture that we grew up with. How much do we know about these people in our midst - not that much. It's time the community becomes aware of this culture," Manzl said.

The Squamish Historical Society will donate the film to any schools wanting a copy as well as to the Adventure Centre and the Squamish Public Library.

Several traditional events are planned in conjunction with the premiere on Feb. 28 including the unveiling of a Squamish Nation canoe carried from the waters of Howe Sound.