Food Burning Ceremony
A Food Burning Ceremony is a First Nations cultural practice and is performed every 4 years, to pay respects to and communicate with loved ones that have passed on.
On June 24, 2014, Greater Victoria Harbour Authority and the Esquimalt and Songhees Nations partnered to host a Traditional Food Burning Ceremony at Ogden Point. The traditional territory around Ogden Point, which was once home to many village sites for the two Nations, had not seen a Food Burning Ceremony in over 100 years. Both the Nations and GVHA felt it necessary to perform this ceremony to honour tradition, take care of the ancestors, and to ask permission to use the land.
The two burning sites are now a permanent fixture in the dedicated area near the Pilotage building. The larger burning site was the food burning site. Here, a table made out of cedar wood was built and the food offering was plated and set around the table, welcoming the ancestors to share a meal. The food burned for the ancestors was traditional foods that they would have eaten at the time. For this ceremony, items such as traditional game food, like deer, and seafood including crabs, clams, and sea cucumber were provided. The smaller burning site was used to send the ancestors clothing and gifts. For this ceremony the ancestors received a blanket and drums to sing and dance.
A Burning Ceremony timeline varies, as the ceremony can last anywhere from one hour to longer than four hours. Names of ancestors from the nations’ families are chosen to be called upon during the ceremony, and those ancestors are welcomed to the meal.
In order to perform a traditional Food Burning Ceremony, workers must be hired. A spiritual person that performs the ceremony, called the Blesser, is the one that will receive very important messages from the loved ones that have passed on. Only certain families are able to perform this ceremony and it is handed down from generation to generation. In addition to the Blesser, a Speaker, Burners, Cooks, Wood Cutters, and Site Cleaners must all be hired in order to perform the ceremony.
On June 24, the table burned very fast, meaning that the ancestors were quite hungry and enjoyed their meal. The spiritual person said she could hear the spirits playing the drums that were offered, and they were singing jubilantly. Very positive messages were relayed from the ancestors to the group through the spiritual person.
After the Burning Ceremony ended, the group proceeded to the Songhees Long House to share a meal together. After the meal, traditional handshakes were performed.
A handshake is a form of thanking the people that helped in the ceremony. The host will do this to acknowledge their gratitude with cash and blankets and in some cases a basket, thanking the workers for all their help to make everything go smoothly.
After the handshakes, the elders and chiefs in attendance spoke to the group and shared their thoughts on the ceremony and extended their gratitude for sharing in the culture.
The ceremony itself was a moving experience for everyone involved. It brings the two Nations and GVHA together and makes our relationships stronger.
Songhees Nation Food Truck
Since May 2016, a new food truck is serving up a unique menu of traditional First Nations cuisine with a modern touch, thanks to a collaboration between the Songhees Nation and critically acclaimed chef David Roger.
The food truck is parked at the Clipper ferry terminal in the inner harbour, where it also serves as a training ground for budding chefs from the Songhees community. Read more about it on the CBC news website.