Each spring, cedar bark harvesting is a Squamish Nation tradition. The red and yellow cedar tree is sacred in many First Nations and Metis tribes on the West Coast. It is strong and malleable, even in water, which is why in the legend of the great flood, Nch’Kay, told Squamish Nations’ ancestors to tie their canoes to Garibaldi using cedar bark rope. Not only is cedar bark great for making rope, but it is also used in traditional regalia, hats, and baskets.
Cedar Bark Harvesting
Bark harvesting is a sacred process that should not be done by just anyone. Members of the Squamish Nation go out to harvest bark in a 2-week window from mid-May to June. Nation members make offerings of tobacco and pray to the tree which they are harvesting. It is said that the tree picks the harvester.
At the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Center, you can learn about the sacred process of harvesting Cedar bark. And, if you go at the right time, you may be able to work cedar bark into rope.
Culturally Modified Trees
After the bark is stripped from the tree it will not grow back. However, the tree will continue to grow around the alteration. It is most important to take only what they need so that the tree stays alive.
You can find trees around Squamish that were harvested hundreds of years ago with these markings. They are called Culturally Modified Trees, and represent a traditional part of Indigenous Culture.
Cedar Bark Weaving
Cedar bark is excellent for weaving. Baskets, capes, and hats are some of the items woven from cedar bark. Even though this is a traditional part of Indigenous Culture, there are some people trying to keep the tradition alive.