Keisha Amanda Charnley on Spirit Work, Her Favourite Serum, and Approaching Every Day Like a Ceremony

By Leigh Joseph

For the third interview of our Sḵwálwen Spirit series, we spoke with Keisha Charnley. Keisha is from the Katzie First Nation of the Lower Fraser Valley, B.C. and Blackburn, Lancashire, England. She lives in New Westminster, B.C. and is training to become a midwife.

When you think of “feeding your spirit," what comes to mind?

Birth work is spirit work. In training to become a midwife, I am learning about the importance of taking care of myself so that I can take care of my relatives. The colonial medical system focuses so much on the body, but birth is a ceremony that equally involves our hearts and spirits. When I am at a birth, I’m thoughtful about not carrying anything heavy in my heart. I put it down and get ready to be with this place, the birther, their ancestors and the new babe who is on their way.

I was about 16 years old when I started thinking about becoming a midwife and I visited with my Elders to ask them about this work. The teachings I heard many times were that the land takes care of our bodies and our bodies take care of our babies. Our lands and waters are everything to birth work. A couple of times I was told to be thoughtful about what I put in and on my body, especially if I was to carry a baby, and to think critically about beauty products. From these teachings, I started working with plants, making medicines, and learning to love my body. 

What activities do you take part in that feed your spirit? 

Being in the city and busy with work, days can slip by without taking care of my spirit in a good way. My Elder Bonni teaches us the value in approaching every day like a ceremony, that the little things we do throughout the day can be healing. Being by the water is healing for me, going to the places where my family is from, the lands that know my DNA, connecting to the dream world, working with plant medicines, moving my body - these are the ways that I wash off what I am carrying so that my spirit can feel lighter.

What makes you feel connected to your creative side? 

I consider birth work to be creative and I paint spindle whorls and Salish abstracts with watercolours. I’m inspired by my dreams and our ancestral carvings, and Salish artists like Susan Point (Musqueam), Trenton Pierre (Katzie) and Ocean Hyland (Tseil-Waututh). Seeing these artists' works is powerful for my spirit.

How can you tell when you’re in need of feeding your spirit? 

I think it’s intuitive for all of us and the challenge is to (re)learn how to listen to our spirits. I have an autoimmune disorder so if I am not listening to my spirit, my body will let me know by literally attacking itself. I’ve learned to see this as a gift, and I think everyone’s body has a way of letting us know when something is off.  

What are your favourite Sḵwálwen Botanicals products and why?

Tewín’xw Facial Serum and Shkwen Body Oil. I love to be outside and lay out in the sun and I’ve got hella wrinkles now, so I’m grateful for the serum. I love how hydrating it is and that it targets aging, especially after an all-nighter at a birth. The Shkwen body oil is a dream come true ~ the ingredients are healing for my autoimmune disorder and muscle aches. 

Huy chexw a / thank you Keisha!

Check out the Sḵwálwen Spirit interview with Chief Janice George here.