Xaw7aa Haida Gwaii - Thank you Islands of the People
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Dahlia Driven Newsdot #5
Xaw7aa Haida Gwaii - Thank you Islands of the People

Masset Inlet.

Seals, eagles, jellyfish, sea urchins, deer, deer, deer,
the percussive sound of a raven's wings in flight.
So quiet Sandy's ears roar.
Taste of a salt lake, moss and mushrooms underfoot 1950's logging roads, pinks (tsiin) swimming up Mamin River.
Outbreak hit a rock, the chart system had us driving through an island.

Deer fur bear poop.
Bear print.

Massett City.

Home (check out the curtains!).
Cheap moorage, great coffee at Ground, gifts of fish, Haida peoples, potlatches (I danced!), everybody waves, miles of empty beach you can drive on and pick up crabs and clams at low tide, library, co-op, post office, bank.
New Dahlia Drive loft above Serenity Massage.

The Plan
Kayak, paddle, teach silk screening at the rec centre, direct a play?, engage a Haida artist to design graphics for a new garment, chill, engage serenity in a serene way (be STILL gosh darn it!), hike trails to challenge my phobia of angry bears in the woods (if only it WERE just a teddy bears' picnic), fish, learn more about the Haida culture, knit seaweed (sgyuu), bake bread, Twist work out, sew things for baby Cochrane.

We spent 2 days in Port Clements, a working community of loggers. There, I spent one day in Angela's coffee shop because it had free wifi.  Awesome folk. So friendly, curious, boat builders, jacks of all traders, canners, mushroom pickers, hunters, a couple from Denmark painting a tug boat for cash. Ron, who lost his job in Kitimat when Trudeau created the National Energy Policy in the 70's, moved  his family to Port Clements, bought a house, worked odd jobs (now retired) and lives a peaceful life with his wife.  He teaches the fire arm safety course. He has no idea what wifi is (and good luck after I explained it to him). He came for coffee twice while I was there.

I was there a long time.

Late in the day, Sandy said those he passed on his way to Angela's from the boat said, "You must be Wendy's husband!". Hahahaha.

Ron hates Harper and the pipeline proposal but swears he would still vote for the Conservatives because 'I want to keep my guns'.

I was so excited to witness the inaugural youth potlatch which coined its own name, "Youthlatch". It started at 5:00.  I was invited by the wife of one of the hereditary Chiefs who does the accounting at the Co-op.  We shared a table having coffee at Ground (uses JJ Bean coffee!). She said to just show up because everybody is welcome!  After my experience in Alberta with the Samson Band, my early experience with the Namgis in Alert Bay (1984) and my university learned sensitivity to appropriation of any indigenous art influence in my own art, I was surprised, encouraged and honoured at the inclusive nature of this historical community celebration.

The feast started with sweets, cupcakes and cookies.  Then came sandwiches. Then soup. Then the main course of salmon, fried baloney, potato salad and buns. Then pie. Then jello. Then we danced to chanted songs and drumming. Then speeches. Then a video introducing each youth member and his/her personal description of what their culture means to them. Then gifts and more speeches. We left at 10:30 but we heard it went on until midnight. Beyond the litany of wonderful activities and speeches and the honour divined to elders (Nonnie Mary, 90, talked for 45 minutes about her youth and her desire to preserve the Haida language), the inherent respect for all members of the community was visible: toddlers, the frail in wheelchairs or walkers, teens, those with mental challenges, pre teens AND white guys like us and the Red Serge Mounties were all invited to participate.

I don't know what a 'regular' Potlatch looks like (we did find out that 'fried baloney' was a new item on the menu), but the Chiefs and elders were truly thankful that the youth had been able to organize and run such a successful rendition of an embedded tradition in addition to introducing personal videos as a vehicle for communication. The "Nights Alive Youth Crew" is dedicated to making a unique contribution to Old Massett.  Hope for the future of the Haida Culture was the message I got.

Day before yesterday we went fishing for cutthroat through a forest path worthy of Robin Hood and Maid Marian.  The river was the colour of steeped tea. I took a police issued flashlight (it was noon) and whistled "The Teddybear's Picnic" while I walked. I survived.

Yesterday we went to Pure Lake. Kingfishers, clean ochre water, paddle boarded naked, swam, napped in the sun. Radar chased us along the shore. Ate crab caught off our dock for dinner.  Really.

You should come.
It is awesome here.

Wendy van Riesen
The Dahlia in the drive


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