What is the relationship of red cedar tree with Katzie First Nation?

In Indigenous cultures, the red cedar tree holds a special place because it’s a tree that is of use from its roots, branches and leaves

As a member of the Katzie First Nation, Burgess Pierre has been working with the local forestry and archeology department for his nation and has found old-growth cedar tree stumps across Pitt Valley.

In Indigenous cultures, red cedar trees hold a special place. It’s a tree that is of use from its roots to the branches and leaves.

The roots are extremely durable and used to make tools like axes while the leaves are burned in households to ward off evil energies. In Indigenous cultures, cedar is used as a spiritual guide and a resource in daily life.

I stood next to Pierre at Maple Ridge Park under a massive red cedar tree. The tree is 100 years old. We stayed there in silence, and I could sense his connection, something special between him and the tree.

“The crackle of the cedar tree is unlike any other. I was taught that the crackle of the cedar, when [it’s] burned, is a calling to the spirits. It’s a call to them to guide us,” he said with a smile etched on his face.

But logging industries across British Columbia have taken many old-growth and first-growth cedar trees that were symbolic to First Nations people.

a massive first growth cedar tree stump is shown in this photo at Alouette Lake Park
The massive cedar tree stump near Alouette River was approximately 300 years old and was initially logged, before being cut down due to safety concerns/Ayesha Ghaffar

Since 1846, the first growth of cedar trees have been marked by scars left behind by Indigenous peoples who lived along the Fraser and Alouette River, Pierre recalled.

“There was evidence of people being around because [loggers] could see scars on the bark left by Indigenous people who were there before. The scars signify that they were harvested for their bark, so that shows there [were] people here that settled and were taken care of by the land.”

Pierre has done several cut block assessments and found that now, logging industries look at the width of cedar trees to determine whether it’s old-growth or not and fail to protect the trees that need protection.

“Some of these parts throughout Lower B.C., they don’t see 90 per cent sunshine throughout the day for optimal growth. So a tree could be much older than what it appears to be. This classification is not protecting old growth, it’s protecting a size and that’s not right.”

He said that logging industries need to come out and walk to assess the conditions of the trees and their age because some of these trees need to be left behind.

As we walked back towards our cars, we came across a massive cedar tree stump that Pierre believed was 300 years old when cut down.

The stump was a reminder that there is still so much we need to hear and learn about these mammoth cedar trees and so many stories related to them that need to be told.  

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