A Cedar Is Life explores how one critical species, the cedar tree, is central to the cultural life of West Coast First Nations.
The film follows the journey of Archeological Consultant and Cultural Worker Harold C. Joe as he discovers more about the cedar.
The documentary weaves together interviews with elders, mask carvers, medicinal harvesters, canoe makers, totem carvers, cedar bark weavers, those working with traditional food and cooking, and other hands-on practitioners all along the West Coast (from Cowichan to Haida Gwaii) who speak to their craft, and how all parts of the tree were – and still are – important to make use of.
Woven throughout the interviews is the image of Cedar Woman, based on a Cowichan legend, highlighting the importance of cedar’s spirit, existing as a living entity.
The evolution of artistic practice is investigated, exploring the difference between modern techniques and traditional methods, while also highlighting the importance of protecting this species throughout the film. We look at ways in which this critical species is bridging cultural gaps in the present day, and how the passing down of knowledge to the next generation is essential for promoting strength of culture in so many Indigenous communities.