PROFILE PHOTO COURTESY OF KIMBERLEY KUFAAS PHOTOGRAPHY Tyson’s Thoughts is a weekly column posted online every Thursday at northislandgazette.com and in print the following Wednesday. Have some thoughts of your own about my thoughts? email editor@northislandgazette.com and we will publish them online and in print.

Tyson’s Thoughts: History in the making at Port McNeill totem pole ceremony

The crowd of 1,200-1,500 people, young and old, were clearly thrilled to be there to witness history

I’m ready to talk about the Port McNeill totem pole ceremony.

Gathering my thoughts together on the subject into a clear and concise format has been a fairly tough task, but after thinking about it on the golf course over the long weekend, I’ve managed to come up with a conclusion that’s been burning inside of me, begging to be written down.

What’s the conclusion, you might be wondering?

Well, first off, the event was such an eye-opening experience with all the beautiful culture being celebrated in the heart of Port McNeill in such a proud and inviting way, that it really made me think about how far things have come since I was a child growing up in Port Hardy in the 1980s-1990s.

Don’t get me wrong, I went to plenty of First Nation’s cultural festivities as a youth, the majority of which were held at the Big House in Fort Rupert, but my memory sadly seems to recall a lot of my non-First Nation friends being vocally unhappy about being forced to go and celebrate a culture that wasn’t theirs.

That wasn’t the case at Port McNeill’s totem pole ceremony on May 17 at North Island Secondary School.

The crowd of 1,200-1,500 people, young and old, were clearly thrilled to be there to witness history, and it was painfully obvious they enjoyed every second of seeing the first Kwakwaka’wakw carved totem pole in Port McNeill’s 50+ year history be unveiled.

After Chief Robert Joseph’s speech, I kept thinking to myself about how our society will become so much more rich and full of substance, vibrance and texture once we fully accept other cultures and their way of life, thus becoming a true melting pot of inclusion where no one is left out in the cold.

Chief Robert Joseph’s speech about “being one” really nailed that point home, and it was seriously a challenge to hold back tears as he spoke, but I managed to get through it and not shed any.

The event was an amazing step towards reconciliation, one which North Island Secondary School Principal Jay Dixon, ‘Namgis Chief Don Svanvik, Kwakiutl artist Mervyn Child, and everyone else who participated in the totem pole project in any capacity, can hold their heads up and be proud of what they accomplished, not just for the school or the town, but Canadian society in general.

Positive experiences like this are what the youth on the North Island need, because I truly believe racism and discriminatory behaviour is something that is a learned trait, with some reports I’ve read stating it can be learned as early as the age of three.

With that said, I unfortunately have heard some grumblings around town recently about there being “too much” First Nation’s coverage in the Gazette lately, to which I will respond this one time only.

If there’s anyone out there who’s reading this that still holds prejudice inside of their heart, I’m asking you to please, let it go.

Hate is baggage — don’t carry it around when you don’t need to.

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