Squamish Nation drum beats loudly for Team Canada at Tokyo 2020

TOKYO (August 2, 2021) – On an early July afternoon in Vancouver, Tsewtsáwḵen (Tewanee Joseph) and his family from the Squamish Nation conducted a special Coast Salish witness ceremony to present a custom made drum for Team Canada’s Tokyo 2020 Chef de Mission Marnie McBean. The drum was created to celebrate the athletes competing in Tokyo. 

Heard across Olympic venues every day, the drum is the heartbeat of the First Nations but has also quickly become the heartbeat of Team Canada in Tokyo.

“I had wanted a drum so that Team Canada could hear that someone was there for them,” said McBean. “When I asked Tewanee if this was an appropriate use – he said that it would be and that a drum represents the heartbeat of a community. I knew then this was for friends and family so that their heartbeat could resonate across stadiums. I don’t always know if the athletes can hear it, but I know the families would be making noise – so I make as much noise as I can.”

Joseph, who was CEO of the Four Host First Nations for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, presented the drum, messages from the Squamish Nation community as well as orange lapel ribbons to Canadian Olympic Committee President Tricia Smith.

Smith was joined by Olympian Christine Nesbitt, John McBean (Marnie’s brother), Mike Bryden (husband to the late rowing champion Kathleen Heddle), Olympian Clara Hughes, and Tewannee’s daughter Sx̱ánanulh (Melina Joseph) who were called as witnesses. The ceremony was conducted by Xwechtaal Elder Dennis Joseph along with Tewanee’s son Ghee-ka-laas (Koru Joseph). 

“Being called to ‘witness’ in the Coast Salish tradition is a sacred honour and carries responsibilities and duty,” said Tewannee Joseph. “As a witness, they are to listen and watch the traditional work that is taking place. They are to carry the messages back to their home community and to their family and friends.

“Around the rim of the drum is the eye of the creator and the ancestors looking down upon Marnie, the athletes and Team Canada,” added Joseph. “In the centre is a Kwakwaka’wakw copper shield. This represents wealth, honour and respect. The maple leaf represents the athletes and the rings of the Tokyo Games. The drumstick includes the colour orange to stand together in strength, respect, solidarity and family.”

The ceremony was held on Thursday, July 8, 2021, and was documented. The video, narrated by Clara Hughes, is available for download and editorial use here.



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