TYSON WHITNEY PHOTO                                A model of the GNN Big House that is currently at the Tsulquate band office.

TYSON WHITNEY PHOTO A model of the GNN Big House that is currently at the Tsulquate band office.

Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw plans construction of Big House

The Big House will have totem poles, family crests, and other designs to represent both nations.

If the District of Port Hardy gives the greenlight, the Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw First Nation (GNN) will soon start building a Big House across from the Tsulquate reserve.

GNN recently requested for Port Hardy’s mayor and council to rezone 8925 Park Drive, which council ended up approving first reading of at its Aug. 14 meeting. The application now awaits subsequent readings of the bylaw and the results of a public hearing that is taking place Sept. 5 inside the District of Port Hardy’s council chambers.

Application approval would mean a rezoning of 8925 Park Drive from a R2 Duplex Residential zone to a P-2 Institutional property. The rezoning would allow for a public cultural building rather than one to two residential dwellings on the property.

Since the 1964 relocation of GNN to the Tsulquate reserve, far away from their traditional territories of Smith Inlet and Seymour Inlet, the two nations did not have their own Big House.

In Kwakwaka’wakw (Kwak’wala-speaking) culture, the Big House is a sacred place for potlatch ceremonies and traditional dance. Potlatches conducted in the Big House mark important events like marriages, naming of children, or mourning the passing of a loved one.

It is also a place to conduct the traditional ways of governance for the nation. Hereditary chiefs can settle disputes over claiming a title or feuds between families within the Big House.

Historically, the two nations were separate, but were amalgamated after the relocation to Port Hardy. The nations originally had their own Big Houses, along with distinct Kwak’wala dialects and cultural practices.

The new Big House will have totem poles, family crests, and other designs that will represent both nations.

K’awat’si Economic Development Corporation (KEDC) will oversee construction management of the Big House when it comes time to break the ground.

KEDC has also recently finished constructing a carving shed on-reserve where master carvers will complete parts of the Big House’s beam structure, wood posts and totem poles. GNN is waiting to hold a blessing ceremony over the carving shed and the Big House totem poles made there.

A July 3 newsletter from the nation stated that the estimated cost for completion was 6.4 million.

Roger Nopper, the band manager for GNN who submitted the rezoning application to Port Hardy council, said it has been “a lifelong dream for many people to have a big house.”

Nopper added that after the rezoning process and final approvals from town council, the nation will submit for development and building permits.

– Thomas Kervin article

 

TYSON WHITNEY PHOTO                                The carving shed on-reserve where master carvers will complete parts of the Big House’s beam structure, wood posts and totem poles.

TYSON WHITNEY PHOTO The carving shed on-reserve where master carvers will complete parts of the Big House’s beam structure, wood posts and totem poles.