Jul 27, 2018
Reclaim the respect, responsibility and wisdom of those who came before us
Pictured here: Wuikinuxv potlatch
A blog from Patricia Vickers, Clinical Director, Mental Wellness
This month I attended the Wuikinuxv potlatch for the raising of the house front pole, Hosumdas, that my brother carved over the past two years with an apprentice and three other carvers. During the potlatch, I connected with relatives from Bella Bella and they narrated the progression of dances for me throughout the two days of Evelyn Walkus' family members receiving names and adopting others into the family.
I've attended many feasts throughout Sm'algyax-speaking territories (Ts'msyen, Nisga'a and Gitxsan) and experienced the Big House to be very different from the feast hall that I've experienced as witness and participant over the past twenty-eight years. There's something about the dirt floor, the fire in the centre and watching the smoke rise to escape through the smoke hole at the crest of the roof that creates a different environment from the feast hall.
Through the smoke hole you can watch the outside light as it changes throughout the day and into the evening; there's a sense of continuity that is even and balanced, ancient and strong. In moments of watching the smoke move out of the smoke hole while the ancient Wuikinuxv songs were being sung by a group of men with sticks striking the beat on the hollowed log in unison with their sticks, their voices unified and held together by an unseen force, the realization came that all I was experiencing is in me.
A song master was one of the many men at the log drum and I understand that he has knowledge of over 300 songs and their histories. He had composed a song for the new pole, Hosumdas—and we experienced the ancestors coming through words and melody to be with us all and to celebrate the return of a house front pole absent from the Wuikinuxv for a long time. There was a felt sense of being a part of the greater whole and it was more than good—it was and is life past, present and future in a moment.
We, from all Indigenous Nations, have this resource of beauty, strength and courage in ceremony, in our ancestral law unfolding in poetic words, ancient songs and dances and in celebration of life on this side. It is in the marrow of our bones, our cells, our DNA. Our traditional ways, our ancestral knowledge, is the resource we need to reconnect with the supernatural world. I thought about the many people that I've seen as a clinical counsellor and their struggles to find themselves connected with this resource. The neglect, violence and trauma they experienced in childhood and then unintentionally perpetuated onto others became a barrier they struggled to work through to find beauty and peace.
There are many who have grasped hold of the ancient power of respect to be responsible and accountable for their wrongdoing. It is through the resources of respect and ancestral knowledge that we can let go of blame, powerlessness and shame to rest into our sacredness of being human.
This is the place that we've come to as the collective; we've come to the place of truth telling about acts that have been repressed, ignored, denied—swept under the rug in our families. We must come out of shame, rage, powerlessness, fear, anxiety and silence to raise our children and grandchildren through the reclamation of our sacred resources. We need the ancient songs, dances, poetic words and ceremony to affirm who we are, where we've come from and where we're going. Ancestral law (protocol and process) is our foundation for restorative circles, family intervention, cultural justice, healing programs and training programs.
May we reconnect with the resources of our ancestors together: one heart, one mind.
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