In February, we welcomed two new Aunties to the Zero Ceiling family – Auntie Eileen and Auntie Cindy!  In her words, our Manager of Culture, Jill Patrick, sheds some light on the transformative influence the Aunties have on Zero Ceiling by sharing her own experience…

It’s a Tuesday night and I’m at the office, having taken the eighty-minute drive from home to be there for our weekly Family Dinner. Reader, I don’t want to sound whiny, but I had a serious case of the grumps. Exhausted by an 8-hour workday. My ADHD/autism brain overstimulated by all the hubbub and chatter around me. Eating some warm coleslaw out of a big stainless steel mixing bowl (I didn’t arrive in time to have my vegetarian burger cooked on the grill).

Sitting around the big table at the end of the room is a group of excited people, shoulder-to-shoulder, heads bent intently over something hidden from view. It’s a wall-hanging, woven as a community under the watchful eye and practiced hands of Auntie Eileen.

One of our grads slices up a biscoff cheesecake they made especially for tonight. They told me about the recipe when I bumped into them at their workplace a few weeks ago.

The twenty-somethings are milling about, collecting dirty dishes and loading up the dishwasher. They’ve just spent the day late-season snowboarding and are ready to relax.

The grumps lasted about as long as it takes to hang up my jacket.

I’m greeted with nods and smiles and wingspan hugs. The coleslaw is perfectly sauced, and the cheesecake is divine.

And, I am introduced to Auntie Eileen and Auntie Cindy. They are sisters from the Skwxwú7mesh Nation, and they have been Aunties to the youth and alumni of our Work 2 Live program since February.

We chat about movies — we all love Graham Greene, it turns out. We talk about our family histories and why they have so many siblings and why my grandmother took her kids out of residential school in the sixties. We do those big, auntie laughs together, and they teach me the importance of balancing your medicine wheel. We talk about language and jewelry, work and weaving, medicines and marvellous moments of intuition and resilience.

I am reminded the ingenuity of Aunties. How a dollar store hot wheels track can become shuttles for weaving.

Our woolen wall hanging is done! A participant shows me how the colours and patterns in the fibre look like the sky on a bluebird day. Clouds. The yellow-green of alpine trees and the evergreen of the valleys. Water with ripples and reflections. They bind the ends and take it off the loom.

I’ve just witnessed magic.

I carry it home. I still have yet to put it down.

– Jill Patrick

Auntie Eileen: Mohieqxweth Eileen Jacobs is a weaver, traditional artist, and knowledge keeper. She has worked in the Sea to Sky as a teacher of traditional crafts for many years, even weaving headbands for athletes and sponsors at the 2010 Winter Olympics! This is how she heals and helps others to heal. She says the secret to being the best Auntie is being able to listen to your heart. A wicked power pose like that is guaranteed to get those nieces and nephews in line! I know I’d listen to her.


Auntie Cindy: Cindy Lewis is an elder and knowledge keeper. She works in Ta7lnew̓ás (Education, Employment and Training) with Skwxwú7mesh Úxwimixw and teaches language, weaving, and other traditional practices to children and youth. She is a very experienced Auntie, having worked in classrooms and with programs as resident elder and Auntie for many years. When I asked her about the secret to being the best Auntie, she offered me a slice of dark chocolate orange. I couldn’t agree more!

Welcome Aunties!!