Posted by: Tad McIlwraith | June 5, 2011

Insights Through Participation in a Cultural Gathering and a Hike

By Alex Pavlov

My time with members of the Splatsin First Nation has given me an opportunity to gain some small insights into their way of life.  Although it is very limited (four weeks) it has allowed me to appreciate just what it means to be a member of this community in modern day Canada.  Spending time in the field allows me to live anthropology to the max – and this field school is no exception.

Anthropology is a personal business.  Opportunities must always be taken to obtain an intimate understanding of a chosen community.  I was able to get a taste of Splatsin culture in two separate, but significant events.  The first event was as a participant in a Gathering of Nations.  The second was a hike at a place called Quilakwa.

During the weekend of May 27-29, I was given the chance to see a coming together of nations at a cultural event hosted by the Splatsin First Nation.  This gathering allowed the community to fuse through a dynamic mixture of song and dance as well as ceremonial activity.  Powerful singing and drumming filled the space of the arbour.   Moved by the music, grass dancers displayed their prowess in the centre of the arbour.  This was an inspiring performance to witness and gave me a chance to see how effective a group is when talented individuals come together as one.  In between the singing and dancing, time was given for speakers to convey their message to those in attendance.  The constant theme that was emphasized was the need for community; a need for all people to set aside their differences in order to work together and overcome challenges.

My fellow students and I as well as our instructor, Tad McIlwraith, were honoured when the organizers of the Gathering, and members of the community took time to thank us on behalf of the Splatsin for coming here.  Throughout my time here I am very grateful for the warm welcome our group has repeatedly received.  As we danced in the arbour to the beat of the beat of the drum I could not help but feel happy that I made the decision to come here.

Another opportunity to experience how the Splatsin had lived in years past was given to me when our cultural advisor, Randy, took our class to a place called Quilakwa to teach us about the history of the area.  After a hike up a mountain, we were able to take in an excellent view of the surrounding territory.  As Randy talked us through the historical significance of various landmarks, we learnt how the Splatsin had lived their lives in former village sites and fishing areas as well as defend their land on nearby battlegrounds.  As we walked down the steep mountain I imagined just how grim it may have felt to run down this slope, avoiding thorny cactuses, while being chased by an enemy.

Although these two areas of focus may seem far apart and unrelated, they are both relevant and form a backdrop for the exciting history and current activities of the Splatsin people.



  1. Alex: I think you and your field school group are fortunate to have the experiences you have. they are special. Bob

  2. It’s interesting to hear about the intersection of past and present in your experiences, Alex! Thanks for sharing them.

  3. it sounds like you and your group have made an impact on those you worked with! public acknowledgement does not come lightly. i find it very refreshing that your group has immersed itself into the community you are learning about and not backing away from any opportunities put in front of you. to see a traditional area and be told the importance it holds to its people must have been a profound experience. i can only imagine the feeling while looking out at the view

  4. Alex: From what you have written I can tell you have enjoyed your time with the Splatsin First Nation. You stated that, “The constant theme that was emphasized was the need for community; a need for all people to set aside their differences in order to work together and overcome challenges.” By studying in a different community than your own you are obviously doing just that.

  5. Alex: I am thrilled and not surprised at your warm welcome by the community. Sometimes in my work as an applied anthropologist I have to admit some parts of a community have not been as keen to see me as other parts of the same community – usually by the end it is all good and as many of your colleagues have pointed out humour goes a long way to build bridges. But, that is not what I wanted to comment on. For some reason, your blog post made me think about the things you are experiencing and seeing and just how different they are than if the whole field school was done in the middle of winter. I would challenge you to think about what might be different then – what activities might be taking place, what the community priorities might be etc. I mention this because sometimes it is easy to lose sight of the big picture and to imagine a placid lake as a frozen expanse (do the lakes freeze in Enderby?). I have been lucky enough to spend different seasons in a same community and that to me is incredibly fascinating (especially as it has been in northern BC).

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