The Yuin Message Stick: A piece of the Yuin nation’s continuing history

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The Yuin Message Stick is linked to the history and future of the Yuin nation.

At the Indigenous Star Knowledge Project’s first event, Dr. Stuart Barlo shared an impactful story about the Yuin Message Stick — which was prepared for him as he worked with Indigenous star knowledge. 

At the beginning of Dr. Shawn Wilson and Barlo’s collaboration with Wilfred Buck, Buck requested that they gather certain information from Dr. Barlo’s Nation. Barlo was then told this could not be discussed over the phone, so he travelled to his home community to discuss star knowledge with Elders. As a result of this meeting, Dr. Barlo was provided the Message Stick and its teachings, indicating that he was responsible for the task of traveling to different nations to discuss Sky Country and star knowledge. The message stick assigns rights, responsibilities, and ethical approval from the Elders for work on this project to go forward.

Stick used for cultural purposes painted with brown, white, and black markings.

The Indigenous Star Knowledge Project is grateful for Wilson and Barlo’s permission to share their images, along with the following descriptions of the message stick’s meaning:  

1)    The bottom section represents the Yuin nation, from the birth of our nation, through thousands of years of life and growth, to the first major disruption.

2)    This section talks about the impact of colonization and the disruption to the Yuin nation through the removal of our children and the disposition of our lands. The white line shows that despite the impact of colonization, we remain connected to our continuing history. 

3)    This gives the bearer the opportunity to represent the Yuin nation in discussion on the matter of Sky country. This area also talks of the connection the bearer has to the Yuin nation.

4)    This shows the journey that must be undertaken to have the yarns about Sky country and its protocols. It shows the path that the researchers must follow.

5)    These stripes show that there are barriers to the completion of the journey, or hurdles that need to be overcome on the path. These hurdles will come from both from the Indigenous (Black) and the non-Indigenous (white) contexts and people.

6)    This show that Sky Country is the destination, and that it is possible to arrive where we are moving towards if we continue along the path.

7)    This shows that beyond Sky Country are the ancestors; they will be guiding our journey.

8)    This line represents the continual connection between Country, its people, and Sky Country. It also demonstrates that the knowledge that inhabits the gap is still connected and will reveal itself.

9)    This blank area represents the area of knowledge that has hidden for some time, and will reveal itself at the right time. It represents knowledge of Sky Country that is not yet known.

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Lindsey Kirby-McGregor

Lindsey is a member of Whitefish River First Nation who lives in Ottawa with her seven-year-old son. She holds a Bachelor of Social Work (Indigenous Specialization) from the University of Victoria, a Master of Education from UOttawa, and is completing a Master of Arts in Education focusing on program evaluation. She has supported the Indigenous Star Knowledge Project as a Research Assistant and is grateful for the opportunity to learn from all those involved.