Posted by: Tad McIlwraith | June 19, 2011


By Veronika Polanska

Waytk. [Hello.]

I am having real trouble writing this post. Our work stay among the Splatsin has ended. The whirlwind of experiences has passed and now I am left with the aftermath of strong emotions and attachments. I wonder if our presence in the community was felt similarly. The whole group left on Friday Morning but my kids and I stayed an extra day to just … breath and let the four weeks sink in a bit , take root, before throwing ourselves back to the nutty, go-crazy Vancouver life. I think it was similar for some of the people we came in contact with as well because I got a few texts afterwards saying that the place is quiet without us being there.

As excited as I was about participating in this field school four weeks ago I had some serious ethical issues with the project. I was a bit apprehensive about the impact our presence and work was going to have on the community as a whole, as well as the individuals we came in contact with, though I had no expectations of what it might be like. I know that I will never be the same after these four weeks, and neither will my children who completely immersed themselves in their new, however brief, surroundings, and embraced wholeheartedly their experience. I did as they did. And of course I saw the community respond and come together to accommodate our prodding and prying.

I came with a clean slate … no expectations. I made myself vulnerable unexpectedly quickly and deeply, and in turn I was rewarded hundred times over with people’s hearts opening up and their arms welcoming. Now, how do I leave after making such raw and sudden connections? I don’t know. I making due with ‘I am not leaving’, at least not forever. I know I will be back at some point. In what role? Not sure. A friend.

I have connected with a wide range of people in the community and covered many areas of the past and present. The billion dollar question (adjusted for inflation) for me, and I suspect for the community members as well, was (and still is) who are the Splatsin today? What makes a person to be Splatsin?

I could not get a straight answer. Not that I was looking for one. Myself I struggle daily with the question of what my culture is. I like to look at it that culture is a fluid expression of one’s values. There are many cultures I am part of I suppose … the immigrant culture with certain characteristics, typical struggles, traumas, joys, and successes; the woman-feminist culture; the birth culture; the Vancouverite culture – East Van in particular; the Czech culture (whatever it may be beats me, alas); the hockey culture; the beer culture; the Douglas College culture; my family culture; and so on. Some circles are as closed as my immediate family (kids and I) and some transcend geographical and man-made boundaries, like the mother-child health network community. I believe that I create my culture daily and choose the rituals, beliefs, ceremonies, and values.

And that is what I found in near Enderby BC. I found a community trying to figure itself out in the face of constant attempts of being silenced and assimilated.

The Personal is political! Everything is connected. I was constantly reminded that I cannot only be interested in one aspect of the Splatsin way of life while not hearing about the whole picture. The circles of life are connected. We are connected to the rivers, the land, the air, the Earth, the Creator, the solar system, the Universe. We all exert forces on other circles, and even when in constant flux there is a balance. Listening to the stories thundered through my being, challenged my limits, assaulted my emotional core, and made my head spin. It was smooth sailing listening to stories of success and joys in people’s lives; it was a turbulent stormy sea listening to stories of drug abuse and alcohol ripping families apart, women being imprisoned in their present lives by the past and the loss of future, constant struggle of balancing the traditional way of living and providing for one’s family while being forced to be subjugated by the system. But the people are strong, resilient, fierce warriors that meet each day head on. I learned that they were “bred that way” through the story of the last war with the Ktunaxa Nation told by Randy at the top of Quilakwa. They are resourceful and extremely hard workers whose perhaps most valued area in life, the building block of society, is a family.

Now how am I going to put all this in a report and how much of it is me bringing my own issues into this community? All the people I have met were beautiful and I am very humbled by their lives.

It was an honour to live and work among you.

Kukwstsámc! [Thank you!]

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.]

Posted by: Tad McIlwraith | June 13, 2011

Lessons for a Lifetime

By Shannon Hecker

My name is Shannon Hecker.  I have been blessed with the opportunity to participate in this fieldschool for the last four weeks. I brought my daughter along with me so that she too could benefit from this unique experience.  I’ve been attending Douglas College on and off for 7 years. I have had some challenges when it has come to finding my focus at school and deciding what my future career will be. Two years ago I took my first anthropology course (Native cultures of BC) and from that day forward I knew I was going to become an anthropologist. Since then I have taken almost all the courses in anthropology that are offered at Douglas and with much enthusiasm I will be going into my third year at UBC this coming September.  Doing anthropology in the classroom is interesting and fun. However actually living and working with the people in this community has made my dream come true. It was everything I was expecting and more.  I wouldn’t trade the last 4 weeks for anything. The Splatsin people have welcomed us with open arms and I think the hardest part of the entire field school was having to return home.

During my time in Splatsin territory I made many friends quickly.  I spent every Tuesday at the health centre making medicine bags, and making friends as well.  I naively wore my medicine bag empty for a few days until I was asked what was in my medicine bag and I replied with some embarrassment that there was nothing in there.  However this display of naivety prompted me to ask more questions and learn even more.  I don’t expect this to be the last time I find myself embarrassed in the field due to my lack of knowledge.  However that’s what this is all about, living and learning.  Sometimes the best way to learn is from your mistakes.

I attended a cultural gathering the weekend of the 27th, 28th and 29th. It was a wonderful experience.  There were so many talented people there and the songs and dances were very uplifting.  One important lesson I learned there was that when there is bannock, you have to act quick if you want to get some!  I think the highlight of my stay was being able to do a sweat at the sweat lodge.  This is a very empowering ceremony where the act of prayer combined with intense heat are used to cleanse the mind body and soul.  I left the sweat feeling like a new person and the only regret I have is that I didn’t get the chance to do anymore sweats.  All the more reason for me to return sooner than later.

My goal during this trip was to learn as much as I could about plants, medicine and spirituality. We all had our own individual interests and were placed on projects the band was interested in having completed based on those interests.  As a result I spent the majority of my time in and around the Splatsin teaching centre identifying and researching many of the plants in the cultural garden that is located behind the building.  I was fortunate to get to spend some time with the kia7as (grammas) at the teaching centre and learn from them about various plants and their uses. Randy and Rosalind were also invaluable teachers who taught me about many plants and the ways in which they were used for healing. My neighbour while I was living there and friend, Linda taught me how to make a pine basket.  My friend Glen taught me a lot about dancers and healing. The more people I befriended the more valuable lessons in life I was taught.  As the weeks went by it became clearer to me that plants, medicine and spirituality are very connected and one must have a holistic approach to maintain personal well being. Not only did I learn alot about the history and culture of the Splatsin people, but I also learned a lot about myself.  Most importantly I learned that we are always learning no matter how old you are and everyone has some knowledge to offer.

Although the time we spent there was brief, I can proudly say with confidence that I feel I have been accepted as an honorary member of this community.  I want to thank all of those who welcomed us into their homes and were eager to share their knowledge, without your help, our field school would not have been such a great success!

Posted by: Tad McIlwraith | June 5, 2011

Confronting Theory Versus Practice in Anthropological Fieldwork

By Marie-Élise Laforest

My name is Marie-Élise Laforest. At the end of this summer semester I will be entering my third year of study in anthropology and will be saying goodbye to Douglas College and starting at Simon Fraser in the fall. I have been starving for an opportunity to experience the practice of anthropology and collaborate with a community since the first class in anthropology I attended.

It is difficult to convey the extent of my academic and personal growth in such an intentionally condensed medium as a blog post, let alone any kind of holistic image of my experience working with the Splatsin First Nation. This experienced has, in many ways, reinforced my preconceptions of what it means to be an anthropologist. However, being thrown into this work has also shown me that, while I may be aware of the intrinsic difficulties of conducting research in the field, there is a vast difference between theory and practice. In anthropology there is a danger of focusing to intensely on either the individual or the collective. In this way one often forgets the importance of each individual’s place within the collective and reality that any cultural conglomerate is literally just that—a collection of individual voices.

Throughout our time in Enderby a many number of individuals have gone far beyond reasonable expectations and welcomed us into their lives and offered us their time patience. A perfect example of this would be our weekly stick game invitations in which we are assured a warm reception, food and a good time. These individuals have made it their prerogative to answer the plethora of questions we through their way and to tease us for our displays of naiveté. One incident which continues to linger in the back of my mind was the mistake in selecting a rather large and newly oozed piece of pine sap to pop into my mouth during a tour of the community’s cultural garden. It took three seconds to realize my mistake, five hours to rectify said mistake (and copious amounts of toothpaste), and a week for our guides to decide the joke was old…

Yet, we find ourselves in nearly constant contact with only a handful of families within the greater community. In some ways this can be seen as a benefit as our interactions provide us a unique and extensive education on these individuals’ personal knowledge and perspectives, in other words, a case study. Conversely however, this narrow network of collaborators also produces challenges in producing a well rounded study of who the Splatsin First Nation are as a collective. It becomes impossible to make the claim that any work we produce could ever answer such an all encompassing question.

It seems to me this is the crux of an argument to be made against the value of anthropological study. I would argue against this being a detracting aspect of such research and suggest that this is the very nature of human study. Culture is not such a consistent and rigid reality as people may imagine and rather in order to understand culture it is necessary to make careful study of the individual and there place within the collective. The problem lies in the suggestion that any such research does in fact offer a complete and holistic representation.

Posted by: Tad McIlwraith | June 5, 2011

A Small but Significant Project Leads to Understanding

By Kyle Jung

A month on paper doesn’t seem like a lot, but when you experience it the sense of time becomes something different entirely. I’m Kyle Jung, a student at Douglas College, and just about to complete my first year at Douglas. As week three of our field school ends I can safely say that this is nothing like I’ve ever done before; community meets, hiking, archival work, and more than I can even think of at the moment, I’ve done all of this in the short period of time I’ve been up here. Even with a week left I still don’t want this experience to end even though it will in a few days.

My project in the community has had an interesting evolution since I started in week one. At first I really didn’t know what I was going to do so I did everything I could that was available. During the second week of our stay I went down to the daycare and assisted them with establishing their fence line. Walking the fence line was the single hardest thing I’ve done while I’ve been up here; I had to walk through dense forest, in the rain, while getting eaten by mosquitoes, with nothing but my GPS and trusty field note book to jot down flags. The legwork for this certainly paid off though as I finally got down to what my real project was. The Splatsin daycare recently cleared out a portion of land in the back of their property and there was an interest in building a kakuli, a traditional underground winter home, there. This is where my project started as I offered to help build one. The actual time it would take to build a kakuli though would extend beyond the time we were up here so my project evolved into helping to establish a document on kakuli construction itself. My whole week three was spent doing this as I organized meetings with some local kakuli builders, reviewed archival materials such as Teit’s work, and visited locations of already existing kakulis. My little back pocket notebook has become stuffed with all the info on both traditional and modern kakuli construction.

One of the highlights that has come from my research is upcoming for the last week of our stay. While doing research at the Kingfisher Interpretive Center on the pit house they have on their grounds I, and through me the everyone else in the field school, was offered the opportunity to use the voyageur canoe and visit sites on Mabel lake. Most of my research on this project has been done alone so an opportunity like this is a great way to research more traditional pit houses and give a day out for the other students.

As the final week of our field school begins I can’t help but feel humbled about everything I’ve seen and done. Everything that I have been allowed to do and the knowledge that has been shared with me is something I will never forget and will hopefully take to heart. It has been a pleasure to be a part of the community for the short time that I have and it is my hope that I will be able to give something back for the glimpse the community has given me.

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.

Posted by: Tad McIlwraith | June 3, 2011

Making Connections with People and Animals

By Christina Brown

More than halfway through field school already and I can’t help but think of how much I have been able to learn from the people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had so far. I’ve made lots of new friends and I hope to make plenty more. My name is Christina Brown and I am another one of the 12 anthropology students living at the Elders’ Lodge. I am in my first year at Douglas College and so far it has been an amazing experience. I first became interested in anthropology through taking an archaeology class. When I found that archaeology didn’t feel close enough to the people it was meant to discover, I expanded my focus to encompass all disciplines so that I might find what interested me. I took introduction to anthropology with the instructor that is here with us [That’s me!, -Tad, the ed.] and he told us about the field school. As soon as he told me about the field school I was interested. I love anthropology because I am a person who loves to learn about people and share stories and experiences. I suppose, for me, anthropology should be the natural choice.

So far one of the most stimulating events that has happened to me is going horseback riding, but it wasn’t my horseback ride. Soon after we arrived in Enderby, my fellow student and I made friends with a family that has a horse that is unbroken. My friend and I decided to work with the horse because she was so friendly and we loved spending time with the family. During this time I had spoken with a few people and watched some tapes with a co-student at the daycare and heard a lot about speaking with animals and asking their permission and being respectful. My friend who was working with the horse (and has much more experience) and myself had worked with the horse enough and decided it was time for her to experience a rider. The owner came out and saw one of us on the horses back and was ecstatic. She immediately came over and started to pet her horse. She shared with us that she has always felt a strong connection with this horse and began to speak with it. She spoke to her in a soft, soothing voice that calmed the horse immediately. She spoke to the horse, asking for patience and for the horse not to kick or throw her off. Very shortly we were helping the owner of the horse onto the horse’s back. The horse didn’t even move when the owner was on her back and, in fact, had a much more noticeable calm.

It has been remarkable seeing the connection between animals and humans and how they work together and help each other. I have learned through stories and speaking with people, that humans have a very direct connection to each other and have a very constant relationship. I have learned so much in the past two weeks and I can’t wait to learn more. I am going to continue working with my new four-legged friend and continue building more relationships with some two-legged ones. A big thank you to everyone who has taught me these valuable lessons.

Posted by: Tad McIlwraith | May 31, 2011

Learning and Feeling Welcome Despite Our Mistakes

By Jake Lewis

“Hi I’m Jake,” and for all intensive purposes that has been my mantra for the last two weeks.

I realize that just like my fellow field school students, I may be seen to represent more than just myself in that I come with the purpose of documenting the culture of the Splatsin, and I try to do a good job of it. But, to the people I have met, to the friends I have made; I hope all they see is Jake.

I have had some awkward moments, like the time Patrick and I mistook pine for cedar, or the time I broke Randy’s axe on the first chop – “Sorry again Randy”. When Randy asked for someone to help him chop wood I eagerly volunteered.  Thirty seconds and one chop later I had broken the shaft of his axe in half. Needless to say I felt very bad, but Randy, in the same spirit as most of those I have met here, kindly laughed and tried to release me of my guilt. I replaced the axe, but I wouldn’t replace the experience of moving past my mistakes with the encouragement of the Splatsin people. It is in those awkward moments that I am growing both as an anthropologist and as a person.

Yes, there were some tentative first steps. In time we have been, I have been welcomed into people’s homes and people’s lives. It must not have been easy handling all of us, a herd of people, childlike in our naiveté (I dare not call us children because even the children of Splatsin have taken the time to teach us, and it would be disrespectful to them), and hungry to help and participate in any way. But, even our energetic ambition was handled with patience and a kind, albeit a little nervous, smile.

In my time in Splatsin, amongst your people, I have been blessed to share in and learn about a culture ancient and modern. Visiting with you has helped me to answer questions that I have been asking myself for a long time and raised questions that maybe I should have been asking. I hope that my interactions with anyone I have met will do them well. I will do all I can do to repay the kindness that I have received, but I feel as if I will always be indebted to the Splatsin and those individuals whom I have had the honor of meeting.

Posted by: Tad McIlwraith | May 30, 2011

Traveling and Working in Splatsin Territory

By Chris Davey

What an amazing 2 weeks. It’s been almost non-stop meetings, gatherings, and games. On one level, this experience has been overwhelming, but on the other hand, almost everything has been engaging and a lot of fun. We have been warmly welcomed into this community and have had the pleasure to meet too many people to mention here, each with valuable knowledge and interesting life stories.

This second week just flew by. Just as I was settling in, it ended, though it was not without its share of interesting events. On Wednesday May 25th, I aided Tad McIlwraith in his work for the field school by driving him, 2 members of the community, and 2 other students up towards Revelstoke to examine a few bridges in line to be replaced in the near future. On this trip, I was witness to beautiful scenery, lots of knowledge of the areas along the highway to Revelstoke, as well as the compromises that need to be made when construction takes place on native land. Even though a miscommunication lead to a 1-hour mix-up driving back and forth along the same stretch of road, the information gathered and scenery witnessed was well worth the trip. [The photo, below, is from that trip. It shows the mountains along the south side of the Eagle River, west of Revelstoke, BC, -ed.]

This week, I also got a better idea about what the focus of my research will be. One of the other students and I will be examining a few locations on the Southwest border of the territory to get a better idea of what was there in the past, and furthermore to determine what the role of the Splatsin was in those areas. In particular, I will be focusing more on the aspect of fishing in relation to these places. I will be looking into the seasonal round, or the different fish that were available in the different seasons, as well as what was used to fish and why these places may have been chosen for fishing sites. I am really looking forward to learning more about these areas and I am eager to see what there is to be found.

Also of interest was the Traditional Gathering that took place over the weekend from Friday night to Sunday. There was a structured feel to it, though it also was very open.  There was an order and guiding force to the events, but guests were often invited to participate and to witness the events that were occurring. It was both a fun event to witness, as well as at times a solemn occasion that carried emotional weight as well as serious meaning. Altogether it was a very worthwhile and powerful experience that I will not soon forget.

As overwhelming as these 2 weeks have been, I simply cannot wait to see what the next 2 bring. Even though challenges have arisen, I feel that we as a team have done well to face them and move past them. I feel like this community really wants to help us to do work with them, and part of what has been overwhelming is the support and friendliness of the community in helping us to do work related to our topics.

I look forward to working further with members of the community, and to living for the next 2 weeks with this group of people that have become friends.

Posted by: Tad McIlwraith | May 22, 2011

The First Week: Busy Orientation and Time of Introspection

By David Parent

We have now spent a whole week in Enderby and I feel as though we have been here a month.  When I first arrived I was confused because the lodge that we are staying at is on the edge of the reserve, and on the other side of a hill from Enderby.  On the day that we arrived we were greeted by Randy [an elder and Splatsin councilor, -ed.] at the lodge.  We have learned, however, that Randy is a very involved and busy member of his community, so for our first day we were on our own.  Later in the evening he came over to teach us stick games, something that I have personally taking a big liking to.  We were told a story of which the stick game was based from, the condensed version goes as follows:  There are sticks that are worth value and the teams goal is to capture all of the sticks (sticks can also be known as feathers).  Each team has 5 and they compete for a stick called “the kicker”, the two teams play for this because it gives them an advantage to start the game.  During each round two people from each team hide “the bones” (pieces that are marked being male and the unmarked being female) there is a pointer/chooser on the opposing team that must find the female bone in order to stop the other team, if the pointer guesses wrong, their team loses a feather/stick.  There is traditionally a singer for each team.
On the second day we were invited to the Band Hall to meet the Chief and council.  Before attending the meeting we took some time to orient ourselves in Enderby and to visit the local library, where I learned that there were no books present about the local Splatsin people, however they had a good amount on Northwest Coast arts and culture.  I visited the health center where they had a beautifully carved medicine wheel, something that has appeared in a few places in Splatsin like at the arbour, and on some street signs.  The medicine wheel is a circle that is divided in four and each quarter has its own colour, they are red, yellow, white, and black.

At noon we were introduced to the Chief and Council where we welcomed by the chief.  When we arrived home Tad McIlwraith [instructor, -ed.] had great news for some of us; he told us that Randy had invited some of us to join him in an evening sweat.  At first I was a bit hesitant to go due to previous experience, however I decided to overcome my own fears and commit to joining Randy and some of my fellow students.  When we arrived at the sweat Randy had already prepared the fire to heat the rocks for the sweat.  He proceeded to show us the old village site where we saw many impressions of where pit houses were once inhabited.   For us, being students who are very eager to learn, this was the perfect opportunity for us to have some personal time to get to know Randy, and as we would find out, this would be a time where Randy would teach us a lot about his land, his culture, First Nations cultures in general, and even to a degree he taught us a little bit about ourselves.  The sweats were an intense time.  After the second round Randy brought up the medicine circle in our conversation, and explained that each quarter has its own healing property, furthermore he explained that the circle represents all races of men coming together and working together.  He taught us stories about the earth and about the land that we are now visitors of.  When we finished, Randy preceded to tell us that when a project is started on the night of a full moon, it is believed that you will achieve more success, for us, only being in Enderby for a month and just beginning our studies here this was a very kind thought, and in some ways a motivational push to strive to achieve the most possible while staying here.

On Thursday we were invited to a community gathering where we were officially invited into the community by Randy and Laureen who presented traditional songs, each for their respected gender.  We feasted on moose stew, and some other dishes that included salmon and mixed vegetables and grains.  We were invited to play more stick games, where we were taught about the bartering system of the Splatsin people.  Eventually we had a game where the two teams consisted of the field school students versus Randy, Laureen, her son and her nephew.  We had experience, but we learned that we lacked a music leader who would lead the team in singing songs to both distract and taunt the other team, needless to say I chose to step up to the plate and throw myself and my team into a cultural experiment.  I asked to borrow Randy’s drum and proceeded to start singing top 40’s hits, in which my team joined me, we learned quickly that the music helped us because it threw them, the experienced stick players off their game, as their laughter was surely throwing them off of their game.  While we played the stick game, it gave the other half of our group the chance to talk to elders.  Students reported that the elders found our songs to be funny and somewhat accepted to the point that one elder wanted a student to video tape us for her to keep.  I feel that this week has been great for our group, and that we have taken key steps that have allowed us to integrate ourselves into the community.  Next week there is a cultural gathering where we can hopefully have a stick game rematch.  Needless to say we have started a new catalog of songs to sing for our next encounter.

I’d like to thank everyone who has embraced us so far in the Splatsin community.  Your hospitality has been more than we could have ever asked for.

Older Posts »