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We are sqilx'w first


smu’xa?an looks on as her Aunty Tricia Manuel teaches her and the group how to harvest pitch in the Spring. Photo by Kelsie Kilawna

At the root of who we are, we are just some humble rez kids who love their land and people. So when starting our company, my sister and I knew it needed to reflect us, our personality, our style, our everything. We are the loud, laughing community Auntys who grew up in an art studio on the rez. So the company needed to reflect our roots.


When we looked at different business models and growth strategies, we discovered that many of them didn't feel right for us. We didn't resonate with what we were seeing, and it didn't align with our vision.


Our vision is to bring together all people through teachings and story, honouring the Natural Law of our homelands. This is so we can all enact our responsibilities to each other, to the land, and to the 'People to Be', our future generations.


We weren't trying to capitalize on any particular problem rather, we were trying to show others that sqilx'w (Indigenous) people, particularly our Youth deserve to be reflected in the world around them, in their own homelands, to create a sense of belonging.


That's when it became clear after some deep thought, prayer, offerings and conversations with our family and Elders.


"You are sqilx'w first".


That teaching comes from our Aunty Tricia Manuel, she always reminds us by example that we are sqilx'w first, our responsibilities to this land and to our people come first above all else. We risk our intelligence as sqilx'w people when we turn away from our knowledge and accept and adapt to colonial ways of being.


That's when we agreed that this business doesn't need to look like others.

We can't go wrong if we stay rooted in our teachings and remain authentic. We are doing as our teachings ask, honouring our voice, land, and people and creating space to ensure everyone's voice is heard. Our captikwl (oral storytelling laws) clearly outlines this.


We often share about "Story over Policy," it's rooted in our syilx practice of captikwl, our storytelling laws that guide the people in how to be.


captikwl has been guiding our people since the time of creation and before what our human memories hold. If our stories can live this long and guide our people in a good way, then the test is already there and has already been proven. Within a story, there are teachings and protocols on how we are to be with each other. That is just one way we show up sqilx'w first, it's okay to reject colonial policy and replace it with story, honouring what has always worked for us.


(psst..watch for our company story that will guide our protocols- coming soon...)


Another way we enact sqilx'w first in our business is by adopting gathering protocols for finance management. When we go out to the land to gather from it, we are taught to gather for three things: gather for the grieving, gather for the giveaway, and gather for yourself for sustenance. You never take more than you need, and giving back is just as important as providing for yourself. Our culture is a giveaway culture, there are many ways and reasons to do a giveaway; to honour someone, to mark a special occasion, and one of the teachings is that when you give, you give so that the People to Be will have abundance. A giveaway is a prayer of what you want for the future it's a way to caretake the future.


So we use that teaching to inform our financial management and decisions. We ensure that portions of our profits are going back to our people and the immediate needs of the people. A portion also goes to provide for the ceremonial needs of the people. When we can all go to ceremonies, we can enact all of our responsibilities, and finances should never be a limitation or barrier in doing that.

Since we are doing business sqilx'w first, we follow the teaching that we must speak what's on our hearts, and showing up authentically to our people is how we show love. Our ways of love do not rest in a western notion of "love," but it's in the how it's in the ability to show


up humbly with the awareness that you are working for the people, the land, for all of life, and doing it from the heart with mindfulness of teachings.


stim aspʔús?, what is on your heart? This is what our people often start engagements with. Asking what the intention on your heart is, and asking that to all who are engaging. This is a way to set intention, clear people's hearts of anything that impacts doing work in a good way and provide direction clearly from the beginning. This practice is also to speak out to the spirit around us that we have come to a neutral understanding of the energy the work will be done.

Your syilx Sisters is a communications company built on syilx teachings and guided by community values. We act as message carriers to our people. Therefore, we work in direct service to our homelands and with love for the community that we call home.


This is why when we receive opportunity enquiries outside of the syilx and Secwépemc Nation, we make every effort to forward work to people who are already doing this type of work for their own homelands. This is because we honour the voices of the land to speak to their own lands' teachings, and in our training, we explain why this is critical. And for Your syilx Sisters, we are taught to honour other homelands by not speaking over their protocols, teachings, or stories.


For so long colonial systems have spoken over us and paternalistically made decisions on our behalf, believing we weren’t worthy or capable of making our own informed decisions. So for us, it's important that we use every opportunity to remind our community and Nation that as sqilx’w people, we are deserving of informed consent derived from abundant transparent communication. As sqilx'w people, our rights to self-determination are diminished when communication isn't accessible; we then can't enact kinship roles and responsibilities laid out in the capitkwl when we don't have the information we need to enact those responsibilities.


A lack of accessible communication is a form of colonization and oppression, and now is the time we need to come together and work for a better future for all. This isn't a mess we need to leave for yet another generation to clean up, we are all capable of changing courses now.


Regardless of what work we do, as long as we do it from our heart and for the love of our people, we know we are engaging in the best and oldest practices of "business" that we can.


This is how we show up sqilx'w first.



PS- If you are an Indigenous communications company, please email us at thesisters@yoursyilxsisters.com if you'd like to be added to our list so we can forward you opportunities that may become available in your area.


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