ALERT BAY—Alert Bay was blessed with an incredible group of Maori exchange students recently thanks to organizer Massoud Moslehi and Jamie Hunt.
The students from New Zealand’s James Cook School arrived on the 6 p.m. July 23 ferry when the Namgis First Nation welcomed the Maori at the ferry with dance, drumming and song while dressed in colourful West Coast traditional regalia.
The ferry dock instantly became an open air stage for two nations meeting.
The males from the Maori troupe literally moved off the Quadra Queen carrying spears and other traditional Maori weapons.
Their movements were slow, shifting and respectful as the warriors moved off the ferry onto Namgis land.
Their dance was one of clearing spirits and communicating to spirit guardians that they are here. Their sounds were animistic and guttural “whoops” and “squawks.”
The Namgis responded to the Maori greeting with Ernest Alfred dancing the Hamt’sa to demonstrate the Namgis have a strong spiritual being to greet the Maori.
The combined dance troupes, the T’sasala and Gwawina, did the welcome dance in response.
Two men, Chief Bill Cranmer and cultural teacher George Pomana slowly and respectfully approached each other with welcoming words and then shook hands. John Brandon, principle of the James Cook School also spoke at this time and shook hands with Cranmer.
The full troupe of Maori women and men sang together.
Their well-trained voices were powerful.
It was a wonderful sound and a heartfelt moment for all present.
This marked the beginning of friendship and student exchange.
The purpose of the Maori exchange – The Maori call this exchange “hikoi” translated means “walk.”
This exchange is a journey of growth and development.
There were 37 students and 13 chaperones made up of parents and teachers. They had two main performances and presentations; one at the Music Fest on the Bay and the second at the Big House.
They performed at the Music Fest dressed in their native regalia.
The big house was jam-packed with family and friends.
The evening began with a superb pot-luck supper followed by Namgis traditional dancing, drumming and singing.
When the James Cook School students were given the floor their principle John Brandon and cultural teacher George Pomana thanked the Namgis for their generosity in English and then in the Maori native tongue.
Then the Maori performed various dances and the melodic vocals filled the Big House.
After both nations finished it was time for gift-giving.
The James Cook School presented Chief Bill Cranmer with traditional Maori weapons.
The Namgis gave the Maori a special canoe paddle by Fort Rupert artist Ross Hunt and 100 T-shirts designed by William Wasden Jr. that had the following wording: Maya’xalapa – “to exchange respect” in Maori – ‘Namgis cultural exchange 2011.”
The Maori warmed many a heart while they were in Alert Bay and the Namgis warmed many a Maori heart.
A few students expressed their appreciation for the Namgis and they truly did not want to go home.
While in Alert Bay they visited the U’mista Cultural Centre.
They were open to meet and greet everyone they might happen to bump into.
Many hands came together to billet, feed and care for them while on island. The Maori youth left Alert Bay July 26 while the Namgis drummed and sang special songs of friendship and goodbye.
The Maori reciprocated with ceremonious farewell and gift-giving.
As they departed three male warriors danced and moved back onto the ferry as skillfully and meaningful as when they arrived.