One ‘Namgis First Nation princess wants to advocate for social issues affecting Indigenous people.
Latisha Wadhams, who has roots from Tlowitsis, Ma’amtagila, ‘Nakwaxda’xw, ‘Namgis, and Kwakiutl First Nations, said she also wants to raise awareness on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG). In fact, last year the Wadhams’ family had composed a song to honour a family member who was lost to violence.
In Kwakwaka’wakw culture, she was born into what is considered a royal family.
She returned to her home in Port Hardy because of a career opportunity at Kwakiutl First Nation. If hired, she will meet regularly with Kwakiutl membership to talk on issues relating to lands and resources. She hopes the opportunity will bring a sense of “empowering Kwakiutl sovereignty.”
Her primary focus, however, is going out and connecting with other youth. “Just to connect with other youth is empowering. We’re slowly finding our way. I see it with the young ones when I work at the (Wagalus) school,” she added. “I think the biggest thing our generation is struggling with is suicide, alcohol and drugs. It’s scary. That’s one thing I want to bring to the table is empowering our youth.”
As for her interest in working at Kwakiutl, she pointed out “as Bak’wam (Indigenous) people, we should be in charge of our communities, taking care of each other. That was our way of living before. I really want to go back to those times where we looked after each other,” she noted.
“I want to Bak’wamize the system,” she said in an in-person interview.
She had started to learn her Kwakwaka’wakw heritage and culture as well as the Kwak’wala language as early as the age of 10. “When I turned 12 I went to the friendship centre in Vancouver. I had my first West Coast night. It was really interesting to see our Kwakwaka’wakw people there in an urban setting.”
“I felt like I belonged somewhere,” she added. “I just wanted to keep dancing. I think that’s how I started when it came to culture.” Around the age of 15 Wadhams also started to learn how to sing in the language.
Wadhams spent extensive time pulling at events typically known as canoe journeys. Recently she was involved in Pulling Together, which was an effort to bridge the gap between youth and law enforcement, and Pulling to Puyallup, which raised awareness on MMIWG.