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).