A First Nations welcome for Syrians

“I felt a need to welcome the Syrian family in a gentle and respectful way."

Marcel Aubin, the president of the Cowichan Intercultural Society board, shared some of his Anishnaabe First Nations culture with the Cowichan Valley’s first family of Syrian refugees following a press conference at the CIS offices last Thursday.

He explained the meaning of his gifts:

“I felt a need to welcome the Syrian family in a gentle and respectful way.

I had offered the cedar bough and a tobacco tie.

The significance of cedar is to help with purification and protection.

I explained that the cedar bough would offer them this protection for their time here as well as for friends and family back home. I had recently learned that their last place of residence being Lebanon is known for their abundance of cedar trees so I thought the bough was fitting for that reason as well.

The tobacco tie holds prayers for their family and loved ones. I explained that the tobacco tie can be used to pray with or offer back to mother earth.

Through our interaction I learned that many of their customs are similar to ours and they seemed quite honoured to receive as was I to be in their presence.”