Jessica smiles at the camera, posing with her hand-painted drum. She wears a woven hat with a feather across the front, dangly beaded earrings, and a sparkly black long sleeve shirt.

Jessica Sault

Mentor, Music Alive

Jessica is from the Tseshaht First Nation, Nuu chah nulth. Jessica comes from a large family who were champions for cultural revival and who unfailingly adhered to the tradition and culture, despite the formidable Potlatch Ban. She grew up with elders constantly in her home teaching song, dance, protocols and traditional teachings. Her mom and grandmother were a huge influence in her life.

Her mother was 5 years old when she was taken to residential school. She was able to keep her language and culture alive and developed the language, song and dance department at Haahuupayk school. She weaved, harvested and created many dance groups. Her grandmother was a medicine woman who weaved and was lead singer and dancer for the Chiefs wife.

Jessica left home for Vancouver at a young age due to extreme trauma. With a grade 10 education, she enrolled at the Native Education Centre in the Native Administrative Program. She was surprized at her high marks and when placed in her 1 year practicum job with the Vancouver School Board she was eager to learn under the leadership of Lorna Williams.

With encouragement from Lorna Williams, she applied and worked from 1983-1987 at an elementary, inner-city school in East Vancouver called Grandview Elementary. She created, developed and choreographed a multi-cultural west coast dance group and developed First Nations curriculum. She also planned, implemented a traditional potlatch. She moved to her home territory and immersed herself in her language and culture, working alongside 2 fluent elders, in the Tseshaht community, her mother, Kathy Robinson and Carrie Little.

In 1998, she developed a program called Painting Pride to reconstruct the old paintings that were destroyed in the big house in Port Alberni. The program included language, song, dance, history, traditional food gathering, protocols, painting, art, animal connections, and ceremony. In 1999 Phase II- Carving our Culture saw more intense teachings and they carved a traditional dug out cedar canoe which brought the participants “back to life”, they were the ones no one wanted to help, and their stories stirred her passion to continue to learn and teach.
From 2000- 2007 Jessica worked at Haahuupayak School as the Nuuchahnulth Studies Coordinator where she wrote the highly acclaimed Animal Kingdom play, which she choreographed and trained the children in song and dance. Here she saw the first glimpses of undoing of the generational effects of residential schools.

In 2006 Jessica started the Eagle Workshops where she brought in the First Nations Timeline, the Mother Earth Teachings, the #4 Philosophy and the Eagle Teachings utilizing a real eagle.
In 2007-2010 Jessica worked with Surrounded by Cedar Child Family Services as the Literacy Coordinator. She developed curriculum for a literacy program and integrated culture and traditions with poetry, writing, making Lifebook’s of photos, drawings, and stories made by the participants themselves and she also developed another dance group based on the Animal Kingdom teachings.

In 2014 Jessica developed the Healing Hearts workshop for Aboriginal and low income people. This workshop provided traditional healing tools while incorporating the Eagle, Mother Earth, #4 and the Animal Kingdom teachings while providing smudge kits, First Aid kits, eagle feathers, flutes and sweat lodge teachings.

In 2015 Jessica developed the Animal Kingdom Program based on First Nations’ philosophies, culture, traditions, song and dance. She once again taught it to the children in care at Surrounded by Cedar and to the Youth In Leadership Program at the Victoria Native Friendship Centre.

In 2015 Jessica founded ANSWER (All Nations Strong Women for Education and Resurgence) for Indigenous women living in the Songhees and Esquimalt traditional territories. Their mandate is to educate and create their traditional regalia, songs and dances while performing ceremony using protocols to activate spirituality.

In 2018 Jessica founded COA (Coming of Age Program) for young ladies who have come of age. Their mandate is to learn cultural teachings (mentors from ANSWER) so they would never become a statistic in the MMIW crisis. COVID has stopped this program. Their workshops included moccasins, drums, rattles, songs, dances, beading, devil’s club field trip, fry bread, service to community, ribbon skirts, paddle dresses, cedar weaving, grass weaving, and much more. COVID has stopped this program.

In 2020 Jessica went full circle and started a dance group (the George Clutesi Dance Group) with the family of her strongest teacher, George Clutesi. She drives up to Port Alberni, makes regalia with them, eagle workshops and brought drum expert, Sarah Rhude to facilitate drum workshop. COVID has stopped this program.

In 2021 Jessica led a successful virtual Naming Ceremony Potlatch for the women of ANSWER. All protocols were followed, traditional invites, learning new songs and dances, created gifts, and taught the women the values that can be learned through this process.

In 2022 Jessica wrote play called Hish Uuk Ish Tsawaak which is preformed by the ANSWER drum group and is on video

Highlights of Jessica’s successful cultural projects:

  • 1990 – Painting Pride- reconstructing the paintings that were lost/stolen at Tseshaht Bighouse. Participants learned song, dance, language, protocols, planned their own feast to bring out paintings
  • 1991 -Carving our Culture- Carving the first canoe for our community. Utilizing some of the same men who mentored from master carvers
  • 1998 -Koishinmit Language Class- For parents whose children were learning language at Haahuupayak School
  • 1999 – Haahuupayak Cultural Camp- Haahuupayak students and parents cultural summer camp
  • 1998-2003 – Animal Kingdom Dance Group for 5 years
  • 2005-2007 – Healing Hearts with Traditional Healing Tools
  • 2007-2010 – The Animal Kingdom Program delivered to children in care for 3 years
  • 2015 – All Nation Women’s Dance Group in Victoria
  • 2019 – Coming of Age Program
  • 2020 – George Clutesi Dance Group, Port Alberni
  • 2021 – Virtual Naming Ceremony Potlatch, RRU
  • 2022 – Wrote play “Hish Uuk Ish Tsawaak”- We Are All One
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