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In I Am Here Grandmother, Rosemary Georgeson tells the story of how childhood memories and the Firehall Arts Centre led her to reclaiming four generations of her family, all propelled by the love for her great grandmother.
I Am here Grandmother was created in partnership with memory holder, Rosemary Georgeson, as an honoring of the creative process she embarked on at Vancouver’s Firehall Arts that led her to finding an ancestor who had been forgotten by history.
I have created an audio experience for the listener to enter into the heart of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside where the Firehall is located. You are invited to share Rosemary’s experience of walking in her ancestor’s footsteps and unraveling her personal legacy relationship to the lands and waters now known as Coast Salish territories. As an invocation of the world of blood memory and transformation, this soundscape was created with an acoustic component of the actual sounds of the city corner where the building is located along with music from Canadian composer Michael Red and original poetry written in response to Rosemary’s memory.
Meeting my grandmother on her land.
The grandmother, who the government in history tried to erase. Just an Indian woman even though she gave birth to five children, and raised three of them, but she still did not exist.
Just an Indian woman. Tlahaholt was a daughter, a mother, a grandmother, an auntie. But she still did not exist. Just an Indian woman. Because, 1891 census called her: my great grandmother was just an Indian woman.
She existed and I know she did, because I exist. I've always looked for Tlahaholt - I needed to know her. Everything always felt like a piece was missing in my world. That someone or something is not where it should be.
Grandmother, do you hear me?
We were doing an Arrivals workshop at the Firehall Art Centre on the corner in Vancouver. We were working out of the dance studio upstairs. Arrivals Personal Legacy is an arts-based project that looks at creating art through ancestral memories.
From the dance studio upstairs, you can look out to the mountains in the North Shore. The ancestral homelands of my great grandmother Tlahaholt. That place, those mountains were her home and our ancestors' since time immemorial. [indistinguishable recordings in the background]
[You were here with me, in this room, and I am with you]
I was on her land, remembering, reliving her stories from what was passed on to me about her. From her.
[Indistinguishable recordings] [Memories rising... they boil through my bones. I hear my blood boil]
From my grandfather's diminished memory of his mother. From my father's random stories of his grandmother, I was building a connection with her that had been taken away from us, tossed aside like it had no importance to anyone, in the hopes that we also would forget that Tlahaholt existed. I didn't forget.
Take these bones. Let them carry me away. This space and this place has transformed as I reconcile your memory, our lands, our waters. Living breathing truth uncovered. I am your dream come true. Bringing you back holding you in this bright light. Heart... heart beats together, now.
[Indistinguishable words... Now, in these walls, there's a heartbeat there. A shadow... boil it through my...]
My first memories as a child from this land now known as the Downtown Eastside. Coming here as a toddler with my parents and grandparents on our old fish packer, going into places that do not exist anymore. Neither the places, nor the way of life that so many of us knew. It's always been a place of transformation for myself, my family and our stories. As we have transformed, so has the land that my great grandmother called home. The Firehall Arts Centre has been there for so long. And seen so much of this transformation happen. The Firewall is an integral piece and one of the biggest transformations in my life. And it is the place where our stories first began to have a voice.
To acknowledge all that has happened since my grandmother and my ancestors called this land home. I hold these memories now for four generations of my family. I was the only one who knew this story for a very long time, or who even spoke my grandmother's name. My grandmother's story is from this land. It is tied to the shoreline, the mountains in the land.
How many more memories were found in that room over the years about connection to that place that the firehall sits on?
Tlahaholt. Your name once lost, now, never forgotten. I hear you here with me.
Interpreted from a Memory from Rosemary Georgeson
Additional words: Olivia C. Davies
Music: “Alpha” and “Rematriate” by Michael Red, remixed by Olivia C. Davies
SAVAGE SOCIETY (Vancouver)
Darylina Powderface, community Engagement Coordinator
Cameron Peal, production coordination
Sherri Sadler, marketing & communications
Chelsea Carlson, production management
Safoura Rigi-Ladiz, copywriting and videography
Heather Cant, consulting (Indigenous Cities)