Businesses get toolbox of Indigenous culture

Joel Good, left, William Good and Tara Plett display the reading material distributed as part of the Toolbox for Change project.  - TAMARA CUNNINGHAM / The News Bulletin
Joel Good, left, William Good and Tara Plett display the reading material distributed as part of the Toolbox for Change project.
— image credit: TAMARA CUNNINGHAM / The News Bulletin

A Nanaimo leadership group is looking to bridge a gap between Nanaimo’s business and indigenous communities, one book at a time.

Two of seven steam-bent cedar boxes, holding books of indigenous culture and information, will circulate in the community as a traveling library this month.

The idea is to give people the literature to inform, build relationships and connect to the local First Nations community with materials such as graphic novels, the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, and books on Indigenous cooking and protocol with elders.

The project, called Toolbox for Change: A Local Perspective on Indigenous Culture, is the creation of the Mid-Island Manifestors, part of Leadership Vancouver Island, a leadership development program. According to Tara Plett, spokeswoman for the team, the group heard there was an interest in the business community in learning about reconciliation.

“People under 25 are pretty much informed, but over 25, so many people don’t know about the residential schools or the need for reconciliation or the call for it,” Plett said. “The business community is a lot of older people and so that’s a way to bridge the gap of getting the knowledge out there.”

The boxes were unveiled at Shq’apthut: A Gathering Place at Vancouver Island University last week.

Kait Burgan, a member of Mid-Island Manifestors, described the handmade box, painted and steam bent by Coast Salish artist Joel Good, as having a continuous story that gradually works into the written knowledge in the books. The artwork depicts specific stories much like the books do, she said.

“This traditional Coast Salish art form has been preserved and passed on through art through Joel’s Dad, William Good,” she said. “The artwork signifies the passing on of Indigenous knowledge, culture and education to all that wish to learn and experience it.”

Good grew up in an art studio, with two artist parents including his father who he said cares about traditional stories and the meanings towards a lot of the creatures in the arts. It was Good’s idea to paint the beaver, eagle, raven, bear and wolf on the box; the creatures of the main families of all of the nations in the local area and up the coast.

“It basically represents community in a way,” said Good, who thinks the box is “pretty cool” with a lot of information that isn’t fully mainstream.

The boxes will circulate between businesses this month, displayed in break rooms or lobbies for people to peruse, while another five have been sold.  Businesses will also get stickers to show they are a supporter of the toolbox for change and support conversations around reconciliation.

Anyone interested in borrowing a box is asked to contact the Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre by calling 250-754-3215 or e-mailing

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