What a great event. So much to learn for me. Today was particularly enlightening. I started out talking with Frankie Antoine a member of the Bonaparte Nation. He was just sitting waiting to lead his part for the day…the Smudge Ceremony… but we started chatting. What an incredibly nice man. I told him I noticed a huge difference in how the American Indian groups are treated and how “The First Nations” people are treated in Canada. He pointed out that in the US they were forced into reservations. That did not happen in Canada. First Nations live all over BC. He is from the mainland in central BC from the Bonaparte Nation. He said where he grew up he experienced no prejudice and that he actually has fewer First Nation people as friends then other Canadians…However 50 kilometers away the atmosphere is different. Last summer and this summer I experienced a great deal of respect for the indigenous people of Canada. I’m always answered back that it took a lot of work to get where they are. I personally am impressed. It seems that the pressure to educate both their children and the general public about their culture is a huge responsibility they all take on. It was time for Frankie to lead to a spot where he could light the sage leaves that were inside an abalone shell. The ceremony involves letting the smoke go over your body cleansing and making it strong.
So it takes me a long time to get it sometimes. Last year in Sidney there was a wonderful ceremony at the amphitheater dedicating a great totem pole that had just been carved by two brothers. During various speeches from the elders there were comments about survival that pretty much went over my head. I figured they had struggled and now things were better. So this year I thought it would be fun to work with the First Nations kids. DUMMY! That’s what they survived ..being ripped away from their families and language and culture and placed in residential schools to be “educated” in the English way. I went up to the ladies at the Songhee nation booth and asked about the possibility of working with their kids this summer. Duh! No thank you…they are going to be working with their people learning their language and culture during the summer. They also mentioned they didn’t want them to go to camp..then I walked into it. Oh not enough money …no we have plenty of money. Then I said oh you want them educated in their culture. Ta Da!!
My wonderful education from them was how to weave with cedar bark ..I made a rose and participated in a great Totem Tour led by Andy Everson of the K’omoks Nation. Andy studied at UBC and is an Anthropologist. He had a wonderful perspective to share regarding all the Nations that live in BC. First they all speak very different languages that do not share characteristics with one another. On Vancouver Island there are 6 different language clusters. The songs, dances and ceremonies belong to the mother and are passed on to family members through her. Andy shared the burial custom for his nation. They are buried in cedar bark boxes that are waterproof. The box is pulled to the top of the tree and left there. The body goes through all it’s changes while it is hanging there. Eventually the box rots and falls down and remains are scattered on the ground. Andy also gave me a new concept regarding totem poles. I always thought they were religious and honored ancestors etc. Well one in front of us was about a game the men play. They have 2 bones…one with marks and the other with nothing(that is the female). They pass the bones around and the men on the other side try to find it. The team with the bones tries to distract the other side. The women stand behind their men and distract the other team by holding up their shirts. Hmm! So much for Honor etc. I was looking right at that totem ..yep..it is all about that game.