Creativity & Connection
  • Wellness Initiative Network

Turtle Island - Cassia Tremblay

Updated: Jun 24

I was shown a creation story

it started on the back of a turtle and it moves just as slow

Centuries and generations of people

given no room to grow

See this story isn’t about crow, coyote, or bear

it’s about human beings treated staggeringly unfair


As Contact became Canada

not all were welcomed and the lives they had been living were deemed discretionary,

up to interpretation and impressionable

Or perhaps susceptible, definitely dispensable


As time went on people saw their homelands “legally” shrink

by the same unfettered visitor who introduced the drink


And he brought illness, and judgement, and power somehow

in the form of steel guns and foreign monies he thought the First Peoples should all bow down


He rose up with a flag red and white in the end

Seemed to forget his knee was in the back of the Original Nations he had forced to bend


The nations were flowers but now their blooms had been turned down from the sun

They gained the white man’s problems but none of his guns

They were stripped of language, and family, and art, and given over to nuns


In a brick building stretched across trusted lands

the least trustworthy of acts imposed on children

as if it were some vile truth of greater plans


I sat around a reconciling campfire with a sister who recounted the loss of her brother

She only lived across the street but once he stepped into that brick building, he became another


Her family was torn apart at the seams,

her ribbon dress tattered at the knees

from crying in the streets as her brother

marched by in a waistcoat

He couldn’t even turn his head, or he would be beat

He was just trying to stay afloat


After a loathsome infinity the brick building did close

but the damage had been done

A once vibrant community victim to a smoking gun


The ripples spread out from the back of the turtle here

Forward through generations who reconcile most easily with abandonment and fear


The ripples rock the bodies of the people we meet

through lack of food access, tradition and care

it resonates through the community a sickly and off-rhythm drumbeat


But they are still making the drums

moose hides stretched over birch wood

just as the ancestors would


A community heart that is beating and thriving despite it all

Yes, addiction and mental illness lays just below the ground

but doesn’t it everywhere in Canada where our foundations are so unsound?


So my role in healthcare

What will it be?

How can I work with these nations

without making them revolve around me?


The first step seems easy

it’s simple to care

To listen unwaveringly, no pretense in the air

And if I listen strong enough, I will hear the ripples of the turtle and the drumbeat of a song

The whole world can be a reconciling campfire

Even if all the damage can’t be undone



Through the First Nations Community Education Program, I experienced daily life in Lower Post from the position of a learner. This poem was written following the conclusion of the week-long program. It reflects my shift in perspective and appreciation for the community that shared so much of itself with my classmates and I.



Artist bio : As a final year UBC medical student, Cassia believes stories are essential to understanding and supporting the health of individuals and communities. 

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