THOMAS KERVIN PHOTO Walter Brown, middle, regularly carves in artwork to ready himself for his potlatch.

Making of a Chief: How one ‘Nakwaxda’xw man steps into his role

After his feast, Brown will step into a lower seated chief position to fulfil a role in his family.

A young ‘Nakwaxda’xw man will step into his chieftainship role following a feast that he will host next month. In Kwakwaka’wakw (Kwak’wala-speaking) culture, the titles of chieftainship are typically passed down through the family on the father’s side. The role Walter Brown is receiving from the family’s head chief, Michael George, is one of the lower seating chieftainships.

Brown comes from the ‘Nakwaxda’xw nation through his mother’s lineage. Last January, Brown had a name and position placed on him by his head chief.

“In our Kwakwaka’wakw system, we have the head chief and then a couple lower seats, we call them, for chiefs who still have the ability to host a feast or a potlatch. It’s so we don’t have one chief in the family if something goes wrong or someone is away. Another chief can step up and take care of business,” Brown explained. “For myself, stepping into my position I’ll be hosting a feast and during that feast, I’ll be taking care of some ceremonies like a coming of age for a young lady.”

He will also be ensuring another ceremony happens for his 10-month-year-old nephew. The ceremony signifies the baby, after having been part of the world for 10-months, will stay in this physical world.

“For myself, I plan on having this feast and later on I want to have a memorial,” as Brown explained his responsibilities of becoming a chief.

He also mentioned his title name will be coming from the ‘Nakwaxda’xw side of his family. The ‘Nakwaxda’xw nation originally resided in what is called Ba’as or Blunden Harbour but have since relocated to Tsulquate reserve.

Brown, who is also a Northwest Coast Indigenous artist, also started carving back in 2010 under the mentorship of Charles Willie. He noted he started carving small masks, plaques and then worked his way up to drum logs, eight-foot to ten-foot totem poles. Right now, he’s working on a drum log for Port Hardy Secondary School so that First Nations students may learn how to sing and dance in the culture.

 

THOMAS KERVIN PHOTO Brown explains this piece was used in a Hamatsa ceremony after taming an initiate.

THOMAS KERVIN PHOTO A piece of Brown’s artwork currently unfinished.

THOMAS KERVIN PHOTO Walter Brown’s North West Coast artwork of what seems to be a Bakwas or wild man of the woods.

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