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Squamish elder to grace Mountain Film Festival

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By Sam Laskaris Raven’s Eye Writer VANCOUVER







A new Aboriginal component will be part of this year’s Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival.

The 18th annual event will run from Feb. 13 to Feb. 21.

For the first time, the festival will include a storytelling series. This part of the festival, held in conjunction with the Vancouver Society of Storytelling, will feature 12 speakers who will take audience members on a journey through the telling of their tales, local legends and personal narratives.

All of these stories will be focused on the theme of mountains. The afternoon storytelling sessions at the festival will be titled Stone and Fire. And the evening sessions are dubbed Ice and Wind.

The storytellers will include Wendy Charbonneau, an elder from the Squamish First Nation, and Patrick Lucas, who for the past two years has completed a mountain bike charity ride covering 115 kilometres to the Tahltan First Nation.

The storytelling series will feature both afternoon and evening sessions on Feb. 14 at the St. Mark’s Anglican Church. Charbonneau and Lucas are both included in these sessions.

Charbonneau is no stranger to the Vancouver storytelling scene. For the past number of years, she has been a regular, opening and closing the Vancouver Storytelling Festival.

“I love it,” she said of her speaking engagements. “Each time at the end I’ve been circled by people wanting to ask me questions about the legends.”

Charbonneau seems like an ideal candidate to engage in some storytelling. She is a direct descendant of Chief George Capilano.

Capilano is known for welcoming both Captain James Cook and Captain George Vancouver to the west shore in the late 1700s.

And Charbonneau was also related to a legendary Squamish member simply named Mulks. He was considered a historian among the Squamish people as he lived to be about 100 years old and would tell younger generations his stories.

Charbonneau, 59, considers it a huge honour she can now pass on stories involving her ancestors.

“I feel their joy,” she said. “I feel their happiness that I’m still continuing on for them.”

Charbonneau will begin her storytelling segment by performing the Paddle Song. She learned this song from her grandmother.

The Paddle Song has been considered a welcoming song for visitors and settlers on the west coast for hundreds of years.

Charbonneau will also focus in on a pair of stories called The Two Sisters and Siwash Rock.

The Two Sisters is not only a story about two young women and their desire for peace, but also details the legend of Vancouver’s famous mountain peaks. The Squamish name for these peaks translates into Twin Sisters.

As for the Siwash Rock story, it is about the famous landmark in Vancouver’s Stanley Park. Charbonneau will tell a story how the rock represents a father’s commitment to a pure life.

Meanwhile, Lucas will be telling his story titled The Chief’s Ride. In both 2013 and this past year he took part in the charity bike ride, which begins in Dease Lake and continues until Telegraph Creek on the Tahltan First Nation.

Former Tahltan Chief Rick McLean started the ride in 2009. He himself took part in the ride, completing the journey on his own during the first year of the event, to advocate a healthier lifestyle and as a fundraiser for his community.

Besides being an avid mountain biker, Lucas, 39, is also a community planner, writer, storyteller and film maker.

Through his community planning, he has worked extensively with Aboriginal communities, helping them boost their tourism ventures.

Lucas though was one of the non-Natives who joined in on the bike tour. He said there were 17 people who completed the ride in 2013, a journey which took about seven hours.

As for this past year, there were 15 riders. But because of some heavy rain which slowed the participants down considerably, the ride took about nine hours to finish.

For Lucas, the rides not only enabled him to pedal through some picturesque landscapes but also allowed him to better connect with some Aboriginal people.

“Hearing their stories and all the problems they’re going through gave me a broader understanding,” Lucas said. “And it’s an amazing transformative experience.”

Ride participants travelled through some ancient villages and past some sacred sites.

As for the festival itself, it has experienced massive growth over the years. It began as a three-day event and now spans nine days.

This year’s festival will include 65 films. Included in this list will be three movies that will make their world premiere and 14 movies that are North American premieres.

As in previous years, the festival will also feature its share of guest speakers, who are not part of the new storytelling segment.