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Reconciling Both Worlds

“In order to move forward we must reconcile both worlds”,  my late uncle would say. As head of our family, he received a big hereditary chief’s name and position amongst the Musg̱a̱makw Dzawada̱’enux̱w. The big name was Yaḵała̱nlis. Ernest Willie was brought up in the days when the Potlatching, in Kingcome Inlet and Gilford Island, was still going strong. In 1945, when he was only 8 years old, he was initiated into the Hamat̕sa secret society. As he grew older he moved away to become educated in western society. He felt that he needed to learn how to survive and reconcile both worlds; that he did!

My uncle Ernie also became a Minister for the Anglican Church. He often would tell me that he could relate to the stories in the Bible to our own local stories within the Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw. “It’s all about the gift of self”, he would say. He truly knew what it meant to reconcile both worlds.

This totem pole represents, not only the 4 tribes of Kingcome, but also how we are not inferior to the Anglican Church; our pole is not behind, or in front, it is beside it. Our people went through a lot of turmoil just to put it up. They had to say it was in memory of King George the 5th in order to erect the pole. Indeed, my old people were smart! It was against the law in 1938 to practice our culture. During the Potlatch ban (1884 to 1951), some of our chiefs actually went to jail for practicing our traditions. In this church you can see that our old people incorporated our First Nation’s elements within the building. The foresight they had during that time is remarkable. They truly left us a path for us to follow!

Travel~Truth~Beauty and Educational!

2020-01-23T23:10:15+00:00October 14th, 2014|

Passing On Our Teachings

Following in our forefathers’ footsteps is a path many of us take in our lives. Looking back into the past to pave the way for our future is one of the best principles our old people had. How can one move forward without roots? This is why K’odi and I teach our Kwakwaka‘wakw culture at the Gwa’sala-‘Nak’waxda’xw School. It is so important to pass on our ancestors’ ways because in the big scheme of things, it helps the children build confidence in navigating their lives in the right direction. Without a backbone, without a foundation of culture and who you are, it is like trying to take a boat ride at night without lights to guide the way. This is why the old people tried so hard at saving our language and culture for the future of our people.

We were brought up with our old peoples’ teachings. I remember a time at Chief Mungo Martin’s bighouse in Victoria, when we were very young, K’odi was being trained in a particular dance by an Elder; he was passing on his knowledge to him. This was all done behind closed and locked doors. As I watched from the drum log, I observed great detail as this knowledge transfer took place. The sincerity and hope for the future was definitely there that day.

Most of my memories of our ceremonies are from the drum log. I was 12 years old when I was first called to the drum log to sit and sing with the old people. I was so proud to honour and represent my heritage and roots of where I come from. I watched many dancers express our stories of long ago and dramatize our ceremonies that have been passed down for centuries. Many of our Elders have passed since then and now K’odi and I are doing our best to repeat the process of knowledge transfer.

When I was a boy, I received a name that refers to a Gwa’yam (whale) guiding his family. I strive to live up to this responsibility and help guide our youth..

O’ma hayulisus gayulasus! (Always remember who you are and where you come from)

I wish you all a Happy New Year and that you live life to the fullest!

Gilakas’la (Thank You).

2020-01-23T23:12:37+00:00January 2nd, 2014|

Ethnobotany Field Trip

Ethnobotany Field Trip - Sea Wolf Adventures

We loved hosting University of Victoria’s Indigenous Language Revitalization students as part of their ethnobotany course! Our goal was to provide an informative day of on-site learning about the carefully tended groves of Culturally Modified Trees (CMTs) on Yukusam. Yukusam is situated in the Johnstone Strait at the south-west gateway to the Great Bear Rainforest and is a place that is rich with life. This island is really a living museum and the culturally shaped trees tell the story of Kwakwaka‘wakw traditional forestry methods that allowed the forest to thrive and provide for generations to follow.

Our day started with a beautiful ride across Johnstone Strait to Blackfish Sound, periodically stopping to take in the sight of some majestic humpback whales breaching together. K’odi met us where we boarded the skiff and stepped foot on the island. We were greeted by anthropologist David Garrick who has devoted his life to studying and recording CMTs on Yukusam. We walked the beautiful forest trail together, observing the incredible abundance of fungi species. We had 18 participants and the Elders that were part of our group were so happy to be out on the land. We soon arrived at the rustic but cozy research station where we gathered to learn the significance of CMT identification and how there is an estimated 10,000 CMTs on the island. Ancient healthy yews and red cedars are found on the island, some over 1000 years old. Bark-stripped CMTs are identified by the way they heal over time and produce a recognizable scar.

During the McKenna-McBride Commission in the early 1900s, it was reported that Hanson Island was abandoned, thus the BC Government assumed jurisdiction. The CMTs are archaeological evidence that Kwakwaka‘wakw families continued to occupy, manage and harvest the forests.

Mike (Sea Wolf Adventures owner and guide) likes to jokingly refer to these groves as his peoples’ ancient department stores that operated as cooperatively managed clothing, food, hardware and lumber departments. When we walk in the forest we look for signs. Finding physical evidence of how the old people lived is a way to reconnect with the land. He remarks, “It is empowering to learn how to identify a CMT because to the untrained eye it may look like a regular tree, and now I travel through the forest differently. When finding a CMT, I get a huge rush of energy just knowing that one of our ancestors was utilizing this tree and taking care of it at the same time. It teaches us today, by following our ancestors footsteps, to manage our forests and only take what we need.”

I remember when Mike first learned the art of identifying culturally shaped trees. He had found a portal to his ancestors and he came home energized on so many levels. He loves to share this with others and we are excited to make some future trips to Yukusam.

Thank you to University of Victoria, North Island College, David Garrick, Indigenous Education students (our language warriors), ‘Namgis, Mamalilikala and ɬawit’sis Nations!

2020-01-23T23:16:36+00:00November 12th, 2013|

What an Amazing Day!

Our Grand Opening was a great success at Telegraph Cove! It was spectacular to be able to share our dances on the historical boardwalk and bringing two cultures together was enjoyed by everyone. Sea Wolf Adventures really felt a warm welcome by owner Gordie Graham. Howard Pattinson, owner of Tide Rip Tours, also gave a warm welcome to our company opening at the Cove. Chief William Wasden of the ‘Namgis was the master of ceremonies accompanied by Chief T’ɬakwagila (Art Dick) of the Mamalilikala, Chief T’ɬakwadzi (Norman Glendale) of the Da‘naxda’xw, and Chief Yakaɬanlis (Don Willie) of the Kwikwasut’inuxw and together they showed their full support for our new business venture. We want travelers to know that we are very active in revitalizing our language and culture. Passing the teachings down to the next generation is key to Sea Wolf Adventures.

Gilakas’la, he’am ‘mawisdɬa. (Thank you, that’s all for now)!

2020-01-23T23:18:10+00:00July 7th, 2013|

Sea Wolf Adventures’ Grand Opening Tomorrow

Sea Wolf Adventures

Sea Wolf Adventures’ grand opening is on July 6, 2013! Our business goal is to share with the world the past, present, and future of our people. We will do this by maintaining principles and values of our ancestors while we move forward in pursuing youth entrepreneurship in Aboriginal tourism. One of the ultimate goals is to inspire more First Nations to open small businesses that will thrive off each other.

Sea Wolf Adventures believes in providing safety and reliability for our passengers. We purchased a Stabicraft vessel designed in New Zealand for their waters. Air chambered aluminum pontoons will keep the vessel nice and stable in the rough seas of the Johnstone Straight and Broughton Archipelago.

Language and culture revitalization is high priority for Sea Wolf Adventures and we plan to assist in language programs. Government funding is scarce and Sea Wolf Adventures is taking a business approach to assist in breathing life into our languages. Language is identity and without it, we are lost. We are no longer in our traditional territories if we can no longer speak the names of our sacred lands. Passing on the knowledge and wisdom of our Elders is key and will be at the forefront for our future generations.

Keep an eye out for our new sign!

2020-01-23T23:20:37+00:00July 5th, 2013|