Let Me Introduce My Tsewtsáwḵen Drum

Me and my drum are often the only fan in the stands. I came to have it through ceremony with purpose. The ceremony was conducted by Xwechtaal Elder Dennis Joseph along with Joseph’s son Ghee-ka-laas (Koru Joseph)

My drum has been with me to over 21 Olympic venues, witnessing over 40 Olympic competitions. We’re getting around – and we have a purpose! I’ll begin with Huy chexw – thank you to Tewanee, Rae-Ann, Koru, Timu, and Melina Joseph for this beautiful gift. Huy chexw Xwechtall, Elder Dennis Joseph for leading the work that was done. Huy chexw to Tsawaysin Spukwas, Alice Guss for making it and to Koru for the beautiful design.

It’s heard across Olympic venues every day, the drum is the heartbeat of the First Nations but has also quickly become the heartbeat of Team Canada in Tokyo. “I had wanted a drum so that Team Canada could hear that someone was there for them,” said McBean. “When I asked Tewanee if this was an appropriate use – he said that it would be and that a drum represents the heartbeat of a community. I knew then this was for friends and family so that their heartbeat could resonate across stadiums. I don’t always know if the athletes can hear it, but I know the families would be making noise – so I make as much noise as I can.”

Joseph, who was CEO of the Four Host First Nations for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, presented the drum, messages from the Squamish Nation community as well as orange lapel ribbons to Canadian Olympic Committee President Tricia Smith.

I spoke with Anastacia Bucis about the drum for an RBC Spotlight feature.

Smith was joined by Olympian Christine Nesbitt, John McBean (Marnie’s brother), Mike Bryden (husband to the late rowing champion Kathleen Heddle), Olympian Clara Hughes, and Tewannee’s daughter Sx̱ánanulh (Melina Joseph) who were called as witnesses. The ceremony was conducted by Xwechtaal Elder Dennis Joseph along with Tewanee’s son Ghee-ka-laas (Koru Joseph). 

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Hello from the Olympic Village! | Salutations du Village olympique!

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The Olympic Village is fantastic and our advance members of the Canadian Team have set up an amazing space for us here – I can’t wait for you to join us in Tokyo! I’ve already been doing my daily spit collection and temperature recording and, just like in Canada, I wear my mask, wash my hands and keep some distance from those around me. Even though it’s different – trust me, as athletes are now arriving – the potential energy is building… it feels VERY OLYMPIC here!

I know not all of you will be coming to the OV and while reports from many of the host cities and venues have been that they are organized and incredibly welcoming, there are some areas where COVID-19 concerns prevail. Whatever your situation – we’ll do everything we can to make it better, but please – don’t let it throw you off course. 

I’ve mentioned many times that this is my 10th Olympic Games, so that means 10 Olympic Villages, 10 Olympic “Vibes” and 10 Host Cities, their volunteers and host populations.  So far – I’ve met nothing but friendly excited faces – but we know that there is tension among the Japanese public, and the Japanese Government is determined that these will be a safe and successful Games, for the athletes and the Japanese people. And they will be! 

The other day, in the global Chef de Mission meeting, IOC President Thomas Bach stressed the importance of following all COVID-19 Protocols “regardless if you think they are logical or not.” That the Playbook rules exist and are enforced is the reason that the Government of Japan allowed the IOC to have these Games. Without the Playbook rules we’d all be waiting another 3 years for the Paris 2024 Games for the chance to challenge our Olympic Dreams.

This is not the time, nor the Games, to be looking for “grey zone” work arounds. Whether you are in Tokyo or in a pre-Games Host City, just settle into the rules, play by them and thrive in the environment that is. It is what it is – and someone is going to win in these conditions.

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On the doorstep! | À la porte des Jeux!

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July 1,  Canada Day!!  2021

First off, it is impossible for me to cheer for Canada and not also cry for Canada. I write that as a fiercely proud Canadian, who acknowledges that we must face mistakes in our past, including the settler role and its horrific impact on Indigenous peoples. The discovery of more children, taken from their families and treated like this is heartbreaking – we need to do more. I promise to learn and do more, including reading the Truth and Reconciliation Commission summary and recommendations, especially recommendations 87 to 91 about what we, in the sport world, can do. 

Soon enough (if not already!) you will be arriving in Japan and then moving into your Olympic accommodation. For me, as an athlete, this was a time when I would have to remember to adjust my critical lens…moving the focus from competence to confidence; in part, this helped me win my four Olympic medals. In a previous message I wrote a caution regarding our laser focus on our ‘To-Do list’ at the expense of awareness of our ‘Done List’. At that time, I positioned that awareness as a tool to support our mental health. Now – it’s a strategy for your high performance. I’ll tell you how…  

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8 more Tuesdays | Huit autres mardis

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8 more Tuesdays!       (Exciting? Scary? Both!!!)

A funny thing happened the other day…the media started writing articles about the heat in Tokyo. Finally! We’re back to talking about the heat!

While there is still more to be done between now and the start of your Olympic competition, we are all getting down to the fine-tuning. You have put in a TREMENDOUS effort and the volume and quality of the work done are extraordinary.

Don’t worry if it seems that you are running out of time – that feeling is normal. Even with all the changes to the original plan, you’ve been following a plan. Trust it. Keep at it. You’re closing the gap between where you are and where you want to be daily.

Here is an excerpt from my book that I think applies,

“To achieve more, critical analysis is essential. We analyze how we are doing so that we can adjust and correct as necessary. Athletes and performers can become hypercritical of their training because they are striving for the perfect performance, and in some ways – it’s just not possible to achieve.

If you ask athletes right after their competition how it went, they will likely give you a list of things, however obvious or minute, that they would like to have done better. It’s not very often that they will tell you all the things that they did right; that’s just the nature of the beast.

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