Tag Archives: Charlene Aleck

Green Embassy of Australia highlights B.C. First Nation’s plight with Kinder Morgan

Australian designer Kuvan- Mills with the great-grandchildren of Chief Dan George of Tsleil-Waututh Nation, BC, Canada. (Photo left by Arun Nevader / photo right by Dustin Photography)

Vancouver, B.C. — World Water Week has just concluded and although many events took place around the world close to rivers, oceans and streams, the fashion runway may be one of the last places on people’s minds when it comes to water and conservation.  Enter Zuhal Kuvan-Mills from Australia and her Green Embassy ‘ Empty Oceans’ collection…

Environmental activist, fashion designer and artist Kuvan-Mills believes art and fashion impact our emotions and can move us to value our blue planet. Currently supporting the world’s leading direct action ocean conservation organization, Sea Shepherd (Australia) she said she was compelled to return to west-coast Canada for Vancouver Fashion Week after hearing about the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion and its threat to local waters.  This is the Perth designer’s fourth time down the runway of Vancouver Fashion Week, and her Empty Ocean’s collection is in perfect sync with water conservation, and she wanted to share that with the Vancouver audience.

Zuhal Kuvan-Mills wears a Sea Shepherd Australia t-shirt with her models at Vancouver Fashion Week on March 26, 2017 (Photo: Dustin Photography)


“Vancouver has such a rich and beautiful coastline that should be protected for generations to come. I know that the First Peoples of its territory are as connected to their land and water,”  said Kuvan-Mills who connected with Charlene Aleck of Tsleil-Waututh First Nation during her stay.  Aleck’s daughter Ocean and granddaughter Maya, ad her niece Jasmine were asked to walk the runway.  The three, are the great (and great-great) grandchildren of a the late native leader, Chief Dan George.  The Tsleil-Waututh Nation is a Coast Salish band whose Indian reserve is located on Burrard Inlet in the southeast area of the District of North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

The Green Embassy runway show opened with a poignant video by Conservation International which reminded us of the beauty of the ocean, and why we need her. As the video closed,  the First Nation youth walked together down the runway in their traditional regalia covered by one large fishing net.

Maya, Ocean, and Jasmine of Tsleil-Waututh Nation on the runway for Green Embassy’s “Empty Oceans” collection at Vancouver Fashion Week (Photo: Arun Nevader)

“I am grateful to the work of Zuhal Kuvan-Mills,” said Charlee Aleck, who is an elected Councillor for her nation after the runway show, “‘Empty Oceans’ brings awareness to how we are treating/polluting our oceans, and the state of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. She shares our concern and the imminent threats to our salmon bearing rivers and Salish Sea from the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion. ‘What will we leave our children?’ Empty nets?” continued Aleck. “I feel truly blessed to have met this beautiful soul, the passion Zuhal has put into this very important message – water is life!”

“I aim to support and help indigenous communities across the world,” says Zuhal. “The children under the fishing net represents the future of the First Nations, they are being destroyed by all types of abuse and destruction to oceans,” said Kuvan-Mills. “Black coloured fish net was selected to represent death and destruction to the natural environment (coastal waters) for First Nations. It was also over the children like a black cloud as now they are under great danger of losing their coastal waters to pollution with yet another Kinder Morgan pipeline.”

(Photos: Dustin Photography)


It is her hope to create a collaborative event between the First Peoples of both Canada and Australia whereupon dance, music, fashion and the arts can be shared.

Models graced the runway to a mix of sounds of First Nation drumbeats and Aboriginal didgeridoo. Fabrics were soft and flowing like water, in blues and ocean colours, or light and creamy like the sand and sea. Bow-ties, bows, sashes or sleeves were made from re-purposed fishing net remnants. Some dresses were made of recycled polyester sourced from trash, plastic bottles, ad drift / ghost fishing nets. There was the lightest of silk pieces that whispered down the runway, while the woven items were strong and edgy like the ocean’s coral and shells, or soft and warm like the sun’s reflection on the shoreline.

The fabric of many of the coats, jackets, hats and vests were collected, hand spun, processed and dyed by Kuvan-Mills herself on her farm in Perth where she raises alpacas, a domesticated species of South American camelid, similar to the llama. Her dyes are made from vegetation, like flowers, leaves, or vegetables, finding inspiration within the textile crafting traditions of ancient times.

(Photos by Arun Nevader)


Green Embassy is Australia’s first internationally recognized organic fashion label who base their work on the protection of nature, and natural resources, while focusing on bringing public attention and education to environmental issues.

In November 2017, Kuvan-Mills will launch the inaugural Australia Eco Fashion Week in Perth. During her stay in Vancouver she explained her methods at Kwantlen University and Blanche Macdonald, and met with many designers, to inspire them to turn toward ‘slow fashion’ and join her for the event.

Green Embassy has been seen on the runway in Paris, London, Beijing and Vancouver, and with more and more concern being placed on fast fashion and the environment, Kuvan-Mills is quickly becoming a sought after guest speaker, and has been interviewed for television on SBS World News and national radio on ABC, Australia. In 2016, the Empty Oceans collection caught the attention of Pamela Anderson, who has her own foundation to help environmental causes.

Real people – non models wear Green Embassy at Vancouver Fashion Week. (Photos by Arun Nevader)


Kuvan-Mills’ commitment to sustainability, organic agriculture, art and slow fashion is expressed in each extraordinary textile piece as a labour of love.

I am so very proud to be connected to this show and that my daughters were able to walk for this amazing designer who has so much heart, passion and vision… I look forward to visiting her  in Australia.

(Photos by Arun Nevader)


Listen to a short clip of the designer talking about her dying process at a Vancouver media event.

Watch video of part of the finale walk on the runway at VFW.

Me wearing Green Embassy at Vancouver Fashion Week. The show was on my birthday on March 26! In the photo taken by Victoria Clements I am holding a Harl Taylor BAG made from natural fibres from The Bahamas. The photo on right is the same vest for a photo I included in my article “Am I Anti-Pipeline” written on my blog about my thoughts around pipelines. It was taken on Burrard Inlet where I dragon boat and where the Kinder Morgan station is.

Read  Am I Anti-Pipeline?


Connect with Green Embassy:

greenembassy.com.au/

facebook.com/greenembassyfashion

twitter.com/greenembassyau

All Nations Festival celebrates an inclusive Coast Salish Territory

 

Creating our shared heritage and vision for the future 

I was very interested when I found out that an All Nations Festival was to take place in Coquitlam where I live, and only blocks from my home. I immediately went to Facebook to learn more.  The 3-day-long event was said to celebrate Coast Salish culture, art, and language from July 23rd through 25th in Kwikwetlem, (Coquitlam) which is part of the Coast Salish Territories. It also was to include the other cultures living in the area.

After living abroad for many years I am new to much of the indigenous territories and culture, and I learned that  the Coast Salish Territory includes a lot of the  Georgia Basin and Puget, and this huge drainage basin comprises of the coastal mainland and Vancouver Island from Campbell River and the Georgia Strait south through the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the Lower Fraser Valley, and the lowlands of Puget Sound. I’ve been volunteering with the Hoy -Scott Watershed Society in my area for the past year so all these land details are of great interest to me.

All-Nations-Festival
The event was hosted around beautiful Lafarge Lake in Coquitlem / Kwikwetlem (Photo: Robbin Whachell)

But back to my All Nations Festival experience… 2015 is the inaugural year, and the annual festival aims to celebrate a Coast Salish cultural resurgence by bringing together the performing and visual arts, music, food, sports and ideas honouring a shared future.

Hereditary Chief Phil Lane Jr. Ihanktonwan of the Dakota and Chickasaw Nation (who is a visitor to these lands and is seen in my feature image at the top) spoke about the Tsleil Waututh Nation “People of the Inlet” and how at one time there were 10,000 people in the area, before a series of small pox epidemics in the last century. He spoke about inclusion as he stood before the Persian group ready to perform at the event in front of artist Sonny Assu “Enjoy Coast Salish Territory” artwork. I captured a short clip of his remarks HERE.

The 3-day Festival program opened on Thursday July 23rd with the Kwikwetlem /kəˈlōkwēəm/ Colloquium hosted by Douglas College. I was unable to attend due to my work, but tuned in via livestream.   If you missed it, you can now watch the Colloquium here. The colloquium’s  aim was to share the work of professional Indigenous artists, academics and researchers in Coast Salish Territory through programming, education, outreach, and networking.  The discussions were very interesting.

George Leach put on an amazing show!
George Leach put on an amazing show at the Evergreen Cultural Centre (Photo: Robbin Whachell)

Thursday evening the entertainment kicked off with an intimate concert, which my daughter and I attended at Evergreen Cultural Centre,  with none other than the first aboriginal Lieutenant Governor of B.C., Steven Point, who performed a number of songs he’d written in his younger days. They were lighthearted and teleported us back to earlier days in Vancouver. Point opened for Juno award-winner George Leach,  a Stl’atl’imx and Kwikwetlem musician and actor.   We learned George is also a great-great grandson of Chief Kwekwetlem.  One concert goer said, “This may have been the best concert I have ever seen…I’ve got 5 words for George and his band’s performance: pure, smooth, honest, funny, and enjoyable…what an incredible voice and refreshing personality, some very heartfelt tributes were endearing as well!”

Friday the colloquium continued with a Coast Salish Leaders’ Roundtable on Shared Environmental Stewardship, and a keynote address was delivered by awarding-winning author, teacher and grandmother, Professor Lee Maracle, from the Sto:lo and Tsleil Waututh Nations.  Listen to her speak about her work and the festival on CBC radio HERE.  Each day the colloquium included plenary, breakout sessions, panel discussions, art exhibition, traditional foods, performances, and dialogue with leading Indigenous scholars, professional and community artists, and cultural leaders.

Just a few of the Colloquium speakers
Just a few of the Colloquium speakers. Left to right: Charlene Aleck, Lee Maracle and Ronnie Dean Harris.

Pulling our best thread forward from our past, and taking it into the future – Lee Maracle, author, activist on the focus of the event to CBC radio.

Friday featured an evening of ideas and spoken word from one of the foremost experts in Coast Salish history and culture. More entertainment was provided on Friday evening and Saturday afternoon and evening at the outdoor festival  held by Lafarge Lake at Town Centre Park which also included engaging talks, a salmon and bison burger barbecue, kids corner, crafts and displays. Aside from sharing dialogue,  the outdoor locations provided the general public loads of activity, sights and sounds on stages, under tents, and by displays, which attracted many Coquitlam residents that just happened to be out for  a walk.

The backdrop of Lafarge lake and the mountains made for a beautiful venue, even with the intermittent cloudy weather. A heron flew over and in the late afternoon the Canada geese, who had been grazing on the adjacent lawns took flight over the tents into the evening sky.

I enjoyed the ‘Idea Tent’ featuring speakers from the festival’s steering committee and special guests. It was refreshing to hear about moving forward as a people who care about each other and our land, without a political party agenda attached. Topics included First Nations rights, pipelines, racism, reconciliation and more. One common idea was echoed through the weekend however, that being, that the Harper Government had to be outed at the next election.

Salish-Territory
Photos courtesy of the All Nations Festival

What I was most impressed with was that the First Nation’s speakers never excluded themselves from others, but rather spoke about the connectedness of humanity, no matter our origins, or religious beliefs. They kept hitting home that we had to work together to protect our environment for our future generations, and really if we don’t have that, what are we left with?  The event also included a  green energy fair featuring electric cars, solar panels and more.

One of my favourite features was a beautiful art piece showcased in the food tent  (see below) called ‘Our Painted Responsibilities’ coordinated by artist, Melanie Schambach along with Nati Garcia and Jen Castro.  Like this woman seen in my photo, people stood in awe to take it all in, as it represents so much, and it also encapsulated the spirit of the event. You can learn about the artwork in this video HERE.

I was told that “this mobile mural was an extension to the 2014 Totem Pole Journey, where a 20-foot-long totem pole carved by Lummi Indian Master Carver Jewell James travelled with his family 6,000 miles along proposed fossil fuel export routes to honor, unite and empower communities in the destructive path of coal and oil exports.”

"From the Columbia River Basin west to the Salish Sea and back east to the Alberta tar sands, the mural offered a space to listen, witness, and express. Youth, elders, activists, students, educators, researchers, healers, artists, indigenous and non-indigenous people, migrants, and impacted communities reflected through paint on our day-to-day connection with mother earth, and our shared responsibilities to protect her." (Photo: Robbin Whachell)
“From the Columbia River Basin west to the Salish Sea and back east to the Alberta tar sands, the mural offered a space to listen, witness, and express. Youth, elders, activists, students, educators, researchers, healers, artists, indigenous and non-indigenous people, migrants, and impacted communities reflected through paint on our day-to-day connection with mother earth, and our shared responsibilities to protect her.” Coordinating artist, Melanie Schambach (Photo: Robbin Whachell)

The All Nation’s event offered a lot over the three days! On top of the engaging dialogue and visual arts displays there  were performances by Doug and the Slugs; Bill Henderson, rapper and activist Ronnie Dean Harris (Ostwelve),  DJs including DJ Hedspin, Hip hop artists, Persian dancers, the Vashaan Ensemble, and many others. Add in sports with skateboarding, basketball 3-on-3s, ball hockey, volleyball, and the Coast Salish Lacrosse Challenge.

I certainly look forward to next year!

Check out the video below to see some of what was featured. If you would like to obtain more information,  become involved by exhibiting, performing, sponsoring or volunteering, learn more at: http://www.allnationsfest.com/

The 2015 All Nations Festival was hosted by Douglas College and the Kwikwetlem and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.  It was produced by Coquitlam School District Aboriginal Education, Coast Salish Cultural Network, and Tsleil-Waututh Nation; and supported by Kwikwetlem First Nation, Douglas College, City of Coquitlam, with additional support from Vancouver Indigenous Media Arts Festival, and various program partners. Steering Committee: Lee Maracle, Charlene Aleck, Gabriel George, Ronnie Dean Harris, Cease Wyss, Brandon Gabriel, Rueben George. Irwin Oostindie (ex-officio member).

Funding was provided by Canada Council, City of Coquitlam, Telus, Vancity, Coquitlam School District #43 Aboriginal Education, Tsleil-Waututh Nation, and Aboriginal Sport BC, and community donations.

About the author: Robbin Whachell lives in Coquitlam, BC and is a volunteer for the local watershed society. In her spare time she likes to hike The Crunch and  explore her community by taking photos and sharing her thoughts on what she sees.