13 Moons of the Saanich Year

Seasonal rounds refers to the the WSANEC peoples movement from one resource gathering area to another, this movement is cyclical following the cycles of the moon. In the spring, summer and fall the people would be moving throughout their territory collecting and processing different resources while in the winter they would gather in their winter villages. The seasonal harvesting activities depended on abundance, if there was a great abundance of a resource they would stay longer and if there was insufficient resources they would move on to the next area.

Here is a link to a unit on The Saanich Year put together by SD 63

SSIS,ET – The Elder Moon (December)

The Elder’s hair holds and shields the elderly people who share the teachings, the beliefs, the history and the culture with the children who are gathered in the warmth of the firelight.

The winter moon, with short days and stormy weather, the people spent most of their time indoors. Travel on the ocean was unpredictable and potentially dangerous.Dried fish and berries stored from the previous year sustained the people during this time.” People ventured out to gather fuel and to hunt the overwintering ducks and geese, to fish for code and grilse (young salmon), and to collect clams and other shellfish”. (pg.25) Time indoors was spent making netting (from nettle stems), carving canoes as well as making baskets for the upcoming harvesting seasons. Children spent the short days listening to stories told to them by the elders about the right way to live. During this time spiritual and cultural activities took place in the longhouses.

NINENE – Moon of the Child ( January)

The face of the young man represents youth, a new beginning, the rebirth of the animal world, and the new edible shoots. This is the Saanich New Year. The moon’s yellow hair is the returning light to the world.

The days are getting longer and the world starts its rebirth, this is the beginning of the Saanich year. The days are still cold and stormy but there are a few sunny days. Families begin to assemble their reef nets for the coming fishing season. They still relied mostly on their stored food but would begin to venture out, fishing for spring (chinook) salmon, halibut and seals. This is the season when fawns were born, so the people stopped hunting doe’s at this time. Story-telling and ceremonial dances continued long into the night.

WEXES – Moon of the Frog (February)

The frog on the face of the moon represents DOLUANW – The keeper of the sacred season

It is during this moon that the frogs wake up and start to sing at night, announcing the coming of spring. The earth is beginning to warm up, people are putting their canoes back into the water and travelling longer distances. They fish for cod, gilse, Spring Salmon, halibut and especially herring. They harvested herring roe by placing cedar boughs in the water where the herring spawned, the earliest runs of spawning herring were in Fulford Harbour off of Saltspring Island. While collecting herring row the people would also catch ducks, putting duck nets in the narrow passages between islands. Potential reef net sights were surveyed as the nets were beign repaired and assembled. The winter ceremonials dances were coming to an end as people began to spend more time outside.

PEXSISEN – Moon of Opening Hands, Blossoming Out Moon (March – April)

All plants and trees are opening up their hands again and the moon meets their welcome

Blossoms and leaves begin to open. The days are getting longer, there is more sun which is necessary to dry the food being harvested. People used floating nets to hunt and preserve the Brant Geese (XELXELJ) in their feeding grounds. Mussels, clams and oysters were also harvested. Cedar trees were felled and the women stripped the bark for weaving clothing and mats. A long time ago people had small, wooly dogs and this was the time of the year when they began to shed. The women would collect and spin their fur for blankets.

SXANEL – Bullhead Moon (April)

This moon represents the visibility of SXÁNEL or what westerners call Orion’s Belt. The moon’s hair represents a strong wind that comes at this time and the swallows that arrive with the wind.

During this moon big bullheads (large-headed bottom fish) appear on the shore and a big wind arrives. People spent most of their time on the water. The older women would spear the bullheads (SKA) from under the rocks. This was also the time to harvest seaweed. People stopped fishing for halibut because they spawned during this moon but they could snare almost full grown grouse in the woods. Around this time young shoots of horsetail, cow-parsnip, salmonberry, and thimbleberry were harvested and eaten. They provided the people with vitamin C and were welcomed as fresh greens.

PENAWEN – Moon of the Camas Harvest (May)

This moon is the moon of the camas harvest. It is time to dig KLO,EL (camas). The camas bulb illustration is shown on the cheek of the moon and in the palm of his hand. The blue plant with the bulb underneath the ground is the whole camas plant.

People traveled all over their territory to dig camas bulbs or “wild carrots” and other root vegetables. Seagulls nested in the camas grounds on many of the islands so the people would gather fresh egg at this time as well. Purple and green sea urchins were also gathered to eat. During this moon people would fish for cod, Spring Salmon, grilse and deep water halibut.

CENTEKI – Sockeye Moon (May -June)

This moon is the same colour as the pale grey sockeye salmon. The sockeye returns during this moon. The Salish art design represents the tide running swiftly through the reef net which is tied to the two canoes (SXELSCET).

The sockeye salmon returned during this moon. The reef nets that the people had been working on were put into place and a ceremony was held when the first salmon was caught. This is also when you will hear the Sawnson Thrushes singing. Strawberries, salmonberries and other berries are beginning to ripen. It is said that it is the song of the Thrush that puts the color into the salmonberries. The WSANEC people were able to catch sockeye about a month before other First Nations because they had access to the straits, during this month the WSANEC people traded salmon with other nations.

CENHENEN – Humpback Salmon Return to the Earth (June -July)

The illustration is half salmon and half human. The darts show the tidal waters that are used to catch salmon. The child carrying the salmon represents the first salmon ceremony in honour of the salmon. Saanich People humble themselves to the salmon.

During this time the grass and forests are dry and fire is a danger. People travelled far, both around their own and others territory to fish for humpback salmon. Great feasts where the WSANEC people shared their harvest with neighbours and relatives from other villages were held where ‘people traded, courted and exchanged ideas and informaiton” (27). Men hunted elk and deer while women collected blackberries, strawberries, red huckleberries and wild gooseberries.

CENTAWEN – Coho Salmon Return to the Earth (August)

The illustration shows the face of the Coho and the human together. The face of the Coho/human is to remind the Saanich Peoples that the salmon were human at one time. The swift running tide picture illustrates where the salmon travel. The camp is the home away from permanent home for the Saanich Peoples.

The Coho return to their streams as the rains help to fill the creeks and rivers. People fished for lingcod and tomcod. The weather is beginning to cool and deer hunting season begins. Indian Celery seed is harvested and stored, it has medicinal and ceremonial uses as well as for flavoring fish and meat. This is prime time for Salal berries, saskatoon berries, thimbleberries, blackcaps, stink currants and other fruits. These berries would dried in cakes for winter use and eaten fresh. 

CENQOLEW  – Dog Salmon Return to the Earth (September)

The colours are Dog Salmon (ochre red). The men are returning the bones of the salmon to the sea, with thanks, in the belief that the bones will come to life and replenish the salmon stocks. The man raises his oar to show honour and respect to our relative, the salmon, who helps us survive.

Dog (chum) salmon return to the rivers to spawn as the windy, rainy weather begins. Seals and Sea Lions are hunted on the sea and deer and grouse are hunted on land. Cod fishing is at its peak. The people smoke the fish they have caught to preserve them for winter. Wild crabapples and hazelnuts would have been picked at this time. Root vegetable like silverweed and springbank clover were dug. Women gathered clams, made blankets and rush mats from tule and cattail. They began to stockpile wood for the winter months.

PEKELANEW – Moon that Turns the Leaves White/Faded (October)

This is the moon of the turning white season (frost). This moon brings the first frost. The leaves lose their colours and turn pale. Deer hunting is the activity during this moon. The earth is cooling down and the people turn their efforts to hunting

This moon represents the end of the harvest season. The leaves are beginning to fall to the ground as the nights become longer and cooler. People split logs for fuel, canoes and building materials. They hunted seals and sea lions in the San Juan Islands and prepared for elk hunting season. The very last of the berries and fruits are harvested.

WESELANEW – Moon of the Shaker Leaves (October – November)

The leaves are ready to fall. The wind comes. Turbulence is felt in the waters and the skies. The earth is cooling down.

People keep close to their winter villages during this month as the winter weather begins. Most of the harvested food had been preserved and stored away. People only fished close to home. After the first snowfall the people would hunt elk in the mountains as they were easier to track. Winter gatherings began at this time.

SJELCASEN – Moon of Putting your Paddle Away in the Bush (November – December)

This moon is the season of strong winds. The weather is unpredictable, making it unsafe to travel. It is time to put the big sea canoes and paddles away. It is time to honour the paddle for carrying one safely all season long. Snow is possible at this time of year. The long house activities start.

The winter months, people stayed home sheltered form the winter storms. Sometimes they would venture out at low tide to dig clams. All the materials that had been stored during the months of harvest are brought out and worked. The women wove mat, capes and baskets while the men made their fishing nets, boxes, tools and fishing gear. The people began to eat the food they had stored during the harvest season. Winter ceremonies began and the children once again got to listen to stories from their elders.


Pacific School of Inquiry and Innovation

My EDtech class had the opportunity on Tuesday to visit the Pacific School of Inquiry and Innovation or PSII (they pronounce it sigh). An independent school with 85 students, it is nestled into an office building on Douglas St. in downtown Victoria. Founded by Jeff Hopkins in 2013, PSII offers an alternate learning structure with a personalized inquiry based curriculum model. Victoria’s newest highschool (grades 9 – 12) still meets BC graduation requirements for a Dogwood Certificate. Check out Jeff’s TEDx talk below!

So how is the inquiry model practiced at PSII different from other mainstream public and private schools?

  • Curriculum is co-created by student and teacher
  • Learning path is curiosity driven
  • Learners are grouped according to what makes sense, whether thats by interests, similarities or differences. Grouping is fluid and students from all grade levels interact
  • School consists of many micro-environments ranging from a quiet sensory room to a wide open study space with the constant murmur of voices much like a coffee shop atmosphere
  • Learners encouraged to develop projects based on their own inquiries
  • Learners encouraged to access mentorship and contribute to society outside of the school walls
  • A combination of face-to-face and virtual learning experiences
  • Learners develop their own Physical Health Education plan and have the opportunity to walk over to the YMCA for a supervised workout daily.

We spent the first part of our tour learning about how PSII operates, each student has their own online portfolio, a compilation of their learning goals and achievements. Teachers, students and parents all have access to this e-portfolio.

Along with the curricular competencies outlined in the BC curriculum PSII has their own set of competencies for their learners. Below is a picture of a poster with PSII’s competencies that can be found at various places around the school.

The second part of our tour was spent independently exploring the school and talking with the students. I had the opportunity to talk with two students and one teacher.

The students showed me what they were currently working on as well as the weekly schedule. PSII offers direct instruction once a week for subjects like math. Each student also meets with their support teacher once a week to go over their progress and set new learning objectives for the next week, the student to teacher ratio is about 15:1 with no support staff.

The students that I chatted with told me that they spend the majority of their days on their computers (which are included in tuition), sitting in small groups of 4 or 5 or alone in the silent study area. There are also students that spend the majority of their days off the computer creating in the art/music studios. It all depends on the personalized learning path of the student. I only talked with two students but they both referred to mainstream public school as “scary”, there was an overarching feeling of calmness throughout the school and I can see how this model would work well with teens that struggle with both generalized and social anxiety.

The two students also preferred to call PSII an independent school rather than a private school as it made it sound “elitist”, I think that this goes with seeing PSII as a test model for inquiry based education. Seeing it as the education method of the 21st century. Not elitist, just ahead of its time.

I think that Inquiry based learning should be an option for any student in public schools. For some students direct instruction may work better and for some the inquiry model, no two students are alike so why have only one learning model? I guess that is what PSII is, an attempt to accommodate every learner based on interests, learning needs and pace.

As an elementary teacher how can I prepare my students to be independent thinkers capable of true independent inquiry? This is a question I will continue to ask as a teacher candidate and beyond.

The SENĆOŦEN Speaking People

WSÁNEĆ territory is diverse terrain with a landscape of sandy beaches, rocky shoreline and hilltops, coastal bluffs, estuary flatland and the odd open meadowland. The people travelled in small groups between their winter villages on the coast and across parts of their territory on southeastern Vancouver Island, San Juan Islands and the Gulf Islands to obtain certain resources in the hunting and harvesting season.

Plants have always played an important role in the lives of the WSÁNEĆ (wh-say-nuch ) or SENĆOŦEN speaking people. Not only are plants (including seaweed, trees and shrubs) a major source of food they are also used for medicine, materials (plant technology) and the setting for cultural activities. “Plant names and terms related to plant harvesting and processing are a significant component of the [SENĆOŦEN] language” (Saanich Ethnobotany pg. 11), a langauage that is connected to the natural world, its animals, plants and the timing of natural events.

The seasonal harvesting activities are explained in detail in Earl Claxton’s book called The Saanich Year, “each family had it’s own special places and their own favorite resources and activities, but in general the pattern of seasonal rounds were on a 13 moon schedule.” (pg. 25)

Image result for the saanich year book  earl claxton
Dr. Earl Claxton Sr. with a map of
WSÁNEĆ territory

You can find a detailed moon schedule in my next post…

While researching how to properly pronounce WSÁNEĆ I came across a website called First Voices an online bilingual dictionary and phrase collection with over 1800 words and phrases in the SENĆOŦEN language that allows anyone with internet to access. There is also a link to download the  SENĆOŦEN app from iTunes.


Audio/ Video Editing Workshop with Rich

We had another workshop with Rich McCue today in EDCI 336, this time we focused on Video editing using iMovie, audio editing using garageband and screen capture using Screencastify. We learned how to import a video, then trim and cut it, and transition between parts. We also learned how to add credits and publish it. Using rockband we imported a song and then learned to trim, cut, delete and fade between audio segments. Audacity is another option that can be used on windows as well as Mac. This was my first time working with audio/video editing tools and I found it a bit overwhelming, but like all things I just need to spend some time practicing. Here is a link to Rich’s page with a step by step guide to working with the platforms above.

These tools along with screen capture could also be used by students to demonstrate their understanding of a topic, or, teachers could use these tools to make an online tutorial like Khan Academy and CrashCourse for their students that they can play after a lesson as a refresher. Technology can positively support a teachers role in the classroom so becoming techno-literate is a must for a 21st century teacher.

Here is a couple of ways your students can use video and audio editing software to enhance student learning.

It is important to think about equity when it comes to devices and the internet being used in your classroom. Using an app like iMovie restricts access to a students project. If they do not have access to a Mac device outside of school they would not be able to work or play using the skills they learned at school with iMovie. Tools like wevideo that are cloud-based and free provide access to students outside of school. Kids that may not have access to devices or internet due to financial circumstances would still be able to access their projects at the local library.

All in all though I think that it was great experience to practice using audio/video editing software. As education and technology mesh in a 21st century classroom, being techno-literate is a crucial skill all teachers will need to posses in order to be able to keep up with the next generation. After only 4 Edtech classes it is becoming ever more evident that technology has the potential to be a catalyst for learning, it allows student to express their creativity, show their learning and build understanding.

Video Conference with Ian Landy

Tuesdays class was my first experience with a video conference call, we met with Ian Landy, Principal at Edgehill Elementary in Powell River. Next time I will make sure that I get there early so that I am not in the front row, I was a bit uncomfortable with being on the big screen and the camera moving to wherever the sound was coming from seemed to have a mind of its own.

Ian talked to us about technology as assessment in the form of e-portfolios, fresh grade , just one example of a digital portfolio/ assessment platform (currently being used in SD61) provides educators with a way to report student learning rather than reporting student achievement (what the old fashioned report cards did). It allows teachers to document, capture and communicate learning to parents and students in a secure way, student data is stored in Canada but does spend a few seconds in the US. Through this platform teachers can also share resources and provide their students with formative descriptive feedback. All this capturing and documenting sounds like teachers would spend a lot of time using devices to upload student content, Ian suggested adding archivist as a class job which I think is a great idea that teaches students how to upload to their own e-portfolios. One thing that is great about e-portfolios is that it gives the students the opportunity to document and share their own learning, providing a sense of responsibility. Ian suggested scaffolding independent use of e-portfolios starting at around grade 5 or 6.

Each student comes to class with their own experiences and worldview, no two students are exactly the same so why would we assess them in the same way? As Ian pointed out ” we can’t compare students… E-portfolios allow for personalized achievement”.

Saanich Ethnobotany

Ethnobotany: the scientific study of the traditional knowledge and customs of a people concerning plants and their medical, religious, and other uses.

When researching local plants and their uses I came across Nancy J. Turner an ethnobotanist and emeritus professor (retired professor) at Uvic who has worked with First Nations elders for over 40 years to help retain, document and promote their traditional knowledge of plants and habitats. Nancy has authored, co-authored or co-edited over 20 books about Indigenous foods, material, medicines as well as language and vocabulary relating to plants and their environments.

I have decided to use one of her books Saanich Ethnobotany: Culturally Important Plants of the W̱SÁNEĆ People as a handbook for my inquiry journey.

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It took many years to write this book which is a collaboration with
W̱SÁNEĆ elders Elsie Claxton (Tsawout), Dave Elliott Sr. (Tsartlip), Christopher Paul (Tsartlip), and Violet Williams (Pauquachin) who share their knowledge of habitats, characteristics, qualities and names of over 150 plants found on the Saanich Peninsula. The book has color photos for each plant making it easy to identify them. This book will help me gain insight into an ancient worldview of the plants that sustained the W̱SÁNEĆ people in the place that I now gratefully call home.

A photo of the detailed map on the inside of cover of Saanich Ethnobotany


Today we spent the first couple of hours of our class having our own mini Edcamp session. Edcamp is an unconference where the topics/themes (education based) are chosen by the attendees. The topics are then narrowed down by up-voting the topics that interest you. Rather than having an expert come and talk, the sessions are curated through the collaboration and conversation of the attendees, this allows everyone involved to both share their own experiences and learn from their peers. Edcamp can also be used as a learning tool for teachers to use with their class. More information and resources can be found here.

I chose outdoor learning environments as my Edcamp topic. My group started out by telling each other about our own experiences or lack of experiences learning outdoors. We then relayed examples of outdoor learning environments we have seen. Here are some ideas….

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Image result for outdoor classroom

Through our group conversations it was evident that time spent learning outside was a memorable experience for all of us. We did not get much further than My group ended up getting off topic so I think that if I was going to have my own edcamp with my class I would structure it for them, maybe a list of questions so that if they get off topic they can refer to the questions and get back to purpose of the activity.