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Xwechtaal Dennis Joseph

Xwechtaal worked for his nation for 40 years, 28 of those he served on Squamish Nations Chiefs and Council (Retired).

 

A traditionally trained speaker in the Coast Salish Longhouse, Xwechtaal has facilitated countless ceremonies for baby namings, puberty rites, weddings & memorials. He took over this traditional role from his uncle and held it for over 20 years. During times of family loss Dennis facilitated family meetings, MC’d numerous funerals, and spiritually supported families and community during difficult times. 

 

He co-founded the Squamish Nation Peacekeepers, whose motto is to ‘Observe and Protect the Squamish People’ and volunteered for them for 25 years building relationships with local RCMP and West Vancouver Police forces. This led him to be the first Indigenous person in Canada to be appointed to a Police Board by the BC legislature, in which he helped to oversee 73 officers and 32 civil servants.

 

Since 1993 he’s followed the annual Tribal Canoe Journeys in which Indigenous people from across the Pacific Northwest participate, and then in 2003 he joined to paddle with the Squamish Canoe Family and continues to be a member doing singing and protocol, openings & blessings.

 

He was Cultural Liaison for The Aboriginal Achievement Awards national broadcast, held in Vancouver and produced by Roberta Jamison. He ensured cultural protocols were followed in script and show and did traditional chants for recipients during walk up and leading into commercial break. He was also Cultural Advisor leading up to the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2010 Winter Olympics produced by David Atkins Productions. He’s recently become Cultural Advisor/Elder to Full Circle Performances/Talking Stick Festival founded by Order of Canada recipient, Margo Kane. 

 

He co-founded the rock band ‘Bitterly Divine’ who played all the major venues at the 2010 Olympics, including many Global Stages. Recent shows include Skookum Fest at Stanley Park, Festival of Light, and Harmony Arts Festival. He’s also a member of the band ‘Whytefeather’ formed 51 years ago. In 2019 they played the inaugural Indigifest & currently have a documentary being filmed about them. Dennis is part of a duo called The Hitchhikers with Haida Gwaii brother Jamie Thompson whose music is based on their respective cultures. Dennis plays harmonica and sings back up.

 

Dennis was resident Elder for Right to Play Youth Camp in 2018 and camp Train the Trainer in 2019. All participants were Indigenous youth from BC, Alberta, and the Yukon. 

 

He’s a five-time National Lacrosse Champion; 3 in Box Lacrosse for the North Shore Indians and 2 in Field Lacrosse Tier 1 for the Vancouver Barbarians (MVP 1993). 

 

“I consider all Elders to be my teachers. I was raised with the best including 3 Great Grandparents, Grandparents and Parents, most of whom were born & raised

In our Longhouses and taught in the great oral tradition.”