Dancers take to the floor at Wakas Hall last weekend during the two-day feast held to commemorate the relocation to Tsulquate.

Dancers take to the floor at Wakas Hall last weekend during the two-day feast held to commemorate the relocation to Tsulquate.

G&N Nations mark 50 years

Wakas Hall was filled with song and story last weekend as the community commemorated 50 years since the relocation to Tsulquate.

 

PORT HARDY—Wakas Hall was filled with song and story last weekend as the community hosted a two-day feast to commemorate 50 years since the relocation to Tsulquate.

Part reflection, part celebration and part community healing, the event served as a forum for a stark look back at the Nations’ forced move from their homelands in 1964 and the struggles endured since. But there was also a hugely positive feel to proceedings as the community took stock of its strength and tenacity and looked to the future.

As MC Charles Willie noted Sunday, “As it was yesterday, we acknowledge all the struggles that the Gwa’sala and ‘Nakwaxda’xw went through and at the end of the night we celebrated that survival. Today we celebrate your living — all your accomplishments since relocation: education; children coming back to their families from care; people going out and getting an education and coming back and working with our people.”

In the early sixties the Gwa’sala and ‘Nakwaxda’xw were encouraged to move to Tsulquate from their homelands with the promise of new housing, education and medical care.

On leaving, village sites were burned to prevent the people returning.

They arrived at Tsulquate to find a handful of unfinished houses without proper moorage or running water.

“You couldn’t describe it,” said hereditary chief Hiłamas Henderson. “A few houses with additions on additions.” He recalled people “strung out all over the floor” of the houses while others bunked down in boats beached in the river. “Our lives turned from day to night; we left our ground, our traditions, our culture, our identity in our homelands.

“The township of Port Hardy didn’t want us. Every person we bumped into asked us what we were doing there, they wanted us to go back where we came from,” he said. “That was really heartbreaking.”

Various speakers across the weekend spoke of the effect the relocation had: the impact on language and culture, struggles with alcoholism and the suicide of community members. Time and again community leaders offered support to anyone struggling with addiction or thoughts of self-harm.

Along with confronting its wounds, the community celebrated its successes and growth. Several highlighted the school and the growth of cultural programs. One of Sunday’s highlights was Tristan Swain’s powerful and positive rap on the relocation which received a standing ovation.

Sunday also saw the Chiefs acknowledge the Kwakiutl, who facilitated the move to Tsulquate — originally a campsite for Kwakiutl clam diggers — by presenting a carving to representative Harry Humchitt.

“Last two days it’s been amazing what we’ve done,” said Chief Paddy Walkus. “We’ve put a lot aside but we need to keep pushing… we have to maintain our cultural values.”

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Port Alice Community Centre opened its doors to the public Wednesday through Friday morning, offering coffee, tea, hot soup, meals and warmth. Cots were available for overnight stays. The centre had a generator, so people were able to charge their devices. Approximately 75 residents passed through during the three-day outage. (Debra Lynn photo)
Port Alice residents talk three-day power outage

The Port Alice Community Centre opened its doors to the public Wednesday through Friday morning.

Emma Garriott is releasing her second album titled ‘Sad White Girl Angst.’ (Emma Garriott / Facebook photo)
North Island musician releases second album titled ‘Sad White Girl Angst’

“When you hear it, I want you to feel like your best friend in the whole world is sitting beside you’

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement forecasting windy weather Sunday and Monday. (News Bulletin file photo)
More windy weather on the way for Vancouver Island

Environment Canada issues special weather statement for Victoria, east coast of Island, north Island

Jay Vaughn, Brian Pohto and Janet Pohto opened up the Island Sun’s tuna freezers for anyone worried about food thawing over the four-day power outage on Malcolm Island. (Christopher Hurst photo)
Community shines bright during power outage

Hardest hit areas on the North Island stepped up to keep neighbours warm and fed

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest weekend of COVID-19 pandemic with 46 deaths; more than 2,300 cases

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides COVID-19 update

Fossil finds at Mt. Stephen. (Photo: Sarah Fuller/Parks Canada)
Extreme hiking, time travel and science converge in the Burgess Shale

Climb high in the alpine and trace your family tree back millions of years – to our ocean ancestors

Kettle bells sit aligned in an indoor fitness studio. (PIxabay.com)
1 COVID-19 case at a B.C. fitness studio leads to 104 more infections, 6 school exposures

According to case data released by Fraser Health, one case of the novel coronavirus carries a big impact

Vehicles drive past a display thanking essential workers in Burnaby, B.C. on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
B.C. changing COVID-19 case reporting as virus spread continues

Manual counting takes more time, leads to errors

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Mask fundraiser helps make children’s wishes come true

From Black Press Media + BraveFace – adult, youth and kid masks support Make-A-Wish Foundation

Christy Jordan-Fenton is the co-author of the book Fatty Legs, which has been mentioned amid the controversy of an Abbotsford school assignment on residential schools.
Co-author of residential schools book condemns controversial Abbotsford class assignment

Children’s book mentioned amid controversy at W. A. Fraser Middle School

Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka takes over as energy and mines critic for the B.C. Liberal opposition. Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick (right) moves from health critic to assistant deputy speaker. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals pick critics to take on Horgan’s NDP majority

Interim leader Shirley Bond takes seniors, long-term care

Left to right: A screenshot of NTC nurse navigator Lesley Cerney, FNHA regional mental health manager Georjeana Paterson and Island Health’s medical health officer Dr. Charmaine Enns addressing Ehattesaht community members from Ehatis reserve in a Facebook live update. (Ehattesaht First Nation/Facebook)
Medical team sent to Ehatis reserve near Zeballos to guide community through COVID outbreak

17 cases, eight recoveries and no hospitalizations as Island Health praises First Nation’s response

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland listens to a question from a reporter on the phone during a news conference in Ottawa, Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Spending too little worse than spending too much, Freeland says as Canada’s deficit tops $381B

‘The risk of providing too little support now outweighs that of providing too much’

Most Read