Posted by: Tad McIlwraith | June 15, 2011

Kukwstsámc: Thank You and See You Later … Soon

By Peter Kaulfuss

Waytk. [Hello.]

My name is Peter Kaulfuss. I’m a student at Douglas College and I’m in the process of completing my second year of post secondary education. My main area of study is psychology—because I’m fascinated by the study of the mind and behaviour.

My journey to this field school began over a year ago during my first year of study at Douglas College, when I took an anthropology course being taught by Tad McIlwraith. The course was Native Cultures of B.C. I took the course because I wanted to learn about the First Nation cultures in the part of the world where I live, and because studying other people and their cultures gives a person the opportunity to not only learn about what they’re studying but also about oneself.

It was the last day of class, and we we’re writing our final exam, Tad addressed the class before handing out the exam and mentioned that he was working on organizing a field school for the following summer. I instantly knew I wanted to do it. I wrote my exam, handed it in, thanked Tad for the semester and asked him where I could sign up.

And now a year later, I’m living it!

To be able to stay for a month in the Splatsin community and their beautiful territory has been amazing! Myself and my (ranging number of) 12-16 house / classmates have been able to experience, participate, and observe Splatsin history, culture, and language in a variety of different ways including : a sweat, lahal (stick games), “Traditional Circle Gathering,” ground thruthing (day trips) with community members and Elders, storytelling, going on hikes, dinners, and the list continues. To try and discuss everything with the length and detail it deserves I cannot do in one blog post; so instead I’m going to focus on the community thank you dinner our fieldschoool was able to host on Thursday June 9th (the night before we left).

Our fieldschool was able to book the hall for the evening of Thursday June 9th to host the community thank you dinner. The evening gave us a chance collectively, and publicly, to thank individuals and groups of community members for all their time, knowledge, and hard work that they shared with us. Our fieldschool tried to display our appreciation and gratitude for the individuals and community’s hospitality and generosity towards us and for making this experience truly unbelievable! (Something not easy to do in one evening). We (fieldschool) provided the food; as a group we made lasagnas, mashed potatoes, salad, fruit plates, and cookies. There were about 50 community members there plus the 13 of us. People ate and visited and once everyone had—we took care of the formal part of the evening.

The formal part of the evening began with Dave, Edna, one of her students from Shihiya School, and myself performing a friendship song.  I was honoured to perform it. After the song, we began to bring people up and thank individuals and groups and present them with gifts we had made and purchased. At different times members of our fieldschool spoke and said thanks and acknowledgements as did the individuals and groups we we’re bringing up. Some of them even presented us with gifts when we brought them up, which was really special. After we had presented our gifts and thank you’s, Laureen and Edna sang a friendship song, and then Laureen sang a travelling song; both were amazing and really meaningful. Randy, one of our main contacts and our “Guide” then did a presentation and gave each one of us a gift—which was wonderful and incredible.

The entire evening and event was really successful both academically and personally. As a student learning what it is like doing anthropology, the evening really put on display and made me aware of a balancing of roles that is necessary in this type of work. The balancing of professional researcher and work relationships with that of emotional and personal friendships that have and can form from participating in this type of work. I felt the evening was a very fitting way to end the field section of the field school.  We were able to acknowledge and thank individuals and the community for having us, sharing with us, and teaching us in so many different ways; and it gave the community the opportunity to do the same (which was not expected and completely overwhelming).

I’m sincerely thankful and grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in this experience and want to thank everyone from the Splatsin First Nation and Douglas College who helped set up and facilitate this fieldschool, it has truly been the experience of a lifetime. One of many things I’ve learned is that you don’t say “goodbye” for that implies I’ll never see you again, but rather “see you later”. So to the Splatsin First Nation and my classmates “see you later”, and I can assure you it will be sooner rather than later.

Kukwstsámc. [Thank you.]

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