Tofino Profile: Wenuk - Mary Martin
by Chris Lowther
Some folks are impatient with the slow manner in which Native people
speak,” points out Mary Martin, “but we do it to be clear,
concise and careful. Because you can never take back what you’ve
A few know her only as “Ed’s wife”. The couple operated
Movies & Munchies for several years. But Mary is also a proud member
of the Tla-o-qui-aht Nation and the Martin family.
For the past two years Mary (whose Tla-o-qui-aht name is Wenuk) has
been employed by the Nuu-Chah-Nulth Healing Project, which she describes
as “work with survivors of residential school and its intergenerational
impacts.” It’s about understanding what people need to
fully recover from trauma. It is respecting who they are, and utilizing
their culture’s time-tested methods.
The healing ways of our ancestors can help us now,” Mary stresses.
Born in Tofino, Mary spent some years in Nanaimo completing her schooling.
At one point in her youth she disappeared to Greece. Two years later
she returned to Tofino with two beautiful babies. Before meeting Ed
she had a third, and with Ed a fourth. You’d think she would
have enough work to do, but after a year as the Nuu-Chah-Nulth’s
Native Education Worker, she became the alcohol and drug counsellor
for the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation—endeavouring “to increase
balance and respect” in the lives of her people. She carried
out that project for seven years, during which time her own life met
tragedy when a daughter died.
Mary gives off a rare energy so tangible you can’t miss it: a
quiet immovable strength which radiates unconditional love to everyone.
She seems to heal by her presence alone. Which is why I’m crushed
that she, along with Ed and daughter Trish, is moving to Nanaimo.
In fact she had to interrupt her packing to introduce a film at the
Clayoquot Community Theatre just the other night. It was a documentary
about images of women in the media, and she is passionate about it,
which makes sense since she raised three daughters.
I first saw ‘Killing Us Softly’ on the Knowledge Network
and knew I had to bring it to our community. I hope it can be used
to help the Nuu-Chah-Nulth tribal council bring back balance through
respecting each other. What does respect mean? What you do and what
you say, goes out to the stars. When someone does something hurtful
to you, don’t do it back. Whatever you put out there, you can
never take back.
I feel that every person is beautiful. Being self-aware, grounded and
centred, you can know when something is not right. Every being is worthy
Before the film, the audience listened without a whisper.
Every one of us can make a difference when we walk out that door. How
we carry ourselves affects the whole community.”
After the film Mary reminded us to be aware of our bodies, slow our
breathing, be present in the moment. She then facilitated a lively
discussion, closing by once again bringing us back to physical awareness. “We
can have pride in our uniqueness—and embrace that.”
Enriching words for anyone who finds it a challenge to fit in, faced
on all sides with anorexic models with perfect hair and airbrushed
She is brilliant and the most grounded person I know,” said Jan
Bate of the West Coast Women’s Society. “And she’s
a colleague. She supports our work; we support hers.”
Now that the NCN Healing Project has ended, Mary is embarking on
a new position as family support worker for a Nanaimo Native Friendship
Centre called Tillicum Haus (Chinook for Friend). But “I’ll
be back, because my family is here.” She has brothers who carve
traditional canoes and nieces who paddle tourists around in them. Mary
herself weaves fine cedar roses, baskets, whaler’s hats and other
Wenuk has indeed made a difference; how she carries herself has affected
whole communities here on the west coast. Anyone who has met her
has been touched, and when we feel ruffled or down, we can remember
and find comfort. But she’d better listen for knocking on her
new door when folks from Opitsaht, Esowista, Tofino, Ahousaht, Ucluelet
etc. come begging her to return!
Chris Lowther is a local writer and activist who calls Clayoquot
Sound her home.
Tofino profile: Wenuk - Mary Martin is profiled by Tofino writer Chris Lowther in Tofino Time Magazine.