Fostering an ongoing relationship with Indigenous communities across Vancouver and beyond has been a priority for many years for both the Vancouver Police Department and the Vancouver Police Foundation. A process of listening, understanding and healing has been at work for decades with years of important work in this area still to come. We are proud to fund many programs that benefit both local Indigenous communities and the VPD in a way that garners a symbiotic relationship of thoughtfulness, empathy, and mutual learnings.
In the previous story we introduced an innovative new program that seeks to increase awareness about the complex relationship between the police and Indigenous communities and to promote healing. The Healing Path Initiative, founded by VPD Constable Tyler Urquhart, the Indigenous Neighbourhood Police Officer from the VPD’s Diversity, Inclusion and Indigenous Relations Section, uses hand-crafted beaded necklaces to encourage dialogue, understanding and togetherness.
These beaded necklaces can be worn by police officers, members of Indigenous communities and the general public to visually signify the wearer’s willingness to participate in dialogue and sharing of culture and experiences intended to heal these relationships moving forward. Each necklace uses specific coloured beads in an intentional pattern to signify this important meaning and message.
Let’s take a closer look to understand the significance of the design of the Healing Path necklace:
The series of single beads together at the top of the necklace near the knot signifies togetherness and community. The four series of medicine wheel colours (yellow, red, black and white) represent the Indigenous Peoples and communities throughout Canada. A different colour is highlighted in the middle of each of the four medicine wheel series.
- Yellow denotes: spring, east, the sun, fire, infancy and love
- Red denotes: summer, south, the earth, rock, childhood and honesty
- Black denotes: autumn, west, the moon, water, adulthood and unselfishness
- White denotes: winter, north, the stars, wind, elder years and harmony
- The five series of blue beads around the necklace represent the police.They are transparent blue, denoting the authenticity, kindness and respect needed when walking the healing path
- The number “5” represents balance, partnership and compassion
- The clear beads between the blue and medicine wheel coloured beads are important because they represent clarity and honesty as well as an acknowledgement of what has happened in the past, acknowledging one another in the present and acknowledging hope for the future.
- The medicine wheel symbolizes many things, including the four directions, the four stages of life and four aspects of life – spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and physical.
- The entire necklace also represents the four seasons and is in a continuous loop, signifying that this important work must continue year after year after year.
The goal of the Healing Path Initiative is to create and distribute 3,000 hand-crafted beaded necklaces, with more made as needed. They will be individually created by VPD officers as well as volunteers and then offered to VPD members, Indigenous communities and the general public to wear when they rae ready this fall.
“The necklace is a visual representation of our connection to one-another and the healing path,” explains Cst. Urquhart.
It is also important to note the use of the local Hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ (Hul’q’umi’num) dialect in the name of the initiative: ɬəw̓ənəq xeʔxɬ (pronounced; cluwanuk xh xh ethpt), was graciously provided by elder Larry Grant from the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) nation. ɬəw̓ənəq xeʔxɬ translate to “healing someone / another little road or path”.
Working slowly and thoughtfully to respectfully repair and build positive relationships between police agencies and Indigenous communities is a priority. We are proud to be providing genuine support on these stepping-stones towards mutual understanding and partnership. We look forward to listening and learning for years to come.