|Pacheedaht, Ditidaht, and Huu-ay-aht First Nations gathered to celebrate their shared culture. It was an opportunity to demonstrate the strength of the relationship the three nations outlined when they signed the Hišuk ma c̕awak Declaration earlier this month.
Pacheedaht Chief Councillor Jeff Jones welcomed everyone to the territory, “Thank you for travelling here today to celebrate in unity. Our three nations have signed a declaration recently, saying we are taking over our authority of our territory and that the three nations will be deciding by themselves how the resources of our territories will be managed. That was a historical moment, and it’s a great pleasure that we now stand together as one moving forward.”
The event included an official recognition of their Hereditary Chief Frank Queesto Jones by Huu-ay-aht Tayii Ḥaw̓ił ƛiišin (Derek Peters). Wišqii spoke on behalf of ƛiišin, thanking Queesto for welcoming his Nation to their territory and recognizing the significance of having both hereditary chiefs present on Monday.
Huu-ay-aht Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr. spoke passionately about the need to move forward from the mistakes of the past and with the Nations deciding the path.
“This territory belongs to Queesto. The reconciliation I would like to see is that Queesto and his people decide how their lands are managed,” Chief Councillor Dennis explained. “That to me is about the best apology I can ever get – the most complete reconciliation I can see is being able to live the way our forefathers lived.”
He said by joining with Pacheedaht on National Indigenous People’s Day in a traditional cultural way it shows how strong First Nations people are when they work together. It also sends a message to people that decisions made on their ḥahahuułi are to be respected and followed.
Huu-ay-aht brought with them singers, drummers, and dancers. Pacheedaht is in the process of building the language and cultural knowledge within their nation. Pacheedaht Chief Jones thanked Huu-ay-aht for sharing so much with them.
Huu-ay-aht surprised the members and leaders of Pacheedaht at the end of the day by presenting them with a spirit pole, carved by Huu-ay-aht Master Carver Ed Johnson. Speaking for his tayii, Wišqii explained that only a master carver can release the spirits from the cedar.
He said, the pole that was gifted to Queesto and his nation starts at the top with a thunderbird, representing the ḥaw̓ił that is above us, the whale is the chief under sea, the bear represents the land ḥaw̓ił. At the bottom is the transformer that represents the spirit – making it a true spirit pole.
Wišqii said the gift is to Pacheedaht and their Hereditary leader, Queesto, from all Huu-ay-aht people and particularly the ḥaw̓iiḥ as it represents their territory.
“Our nations are rich in resources, and this is one example of how wealthy our forests are. Cedar means so much more to us in this form than it does in its cubic metre value,” Wišqii said. “We wanted to gift the spirit of the cedar to all of the community here on behalf of Huu-ay-aht First Nations.”
As visitors to the territory, Huu-ay-aht also gifted a paddle to Chief Jones as a sign of respect and appreciation, and ƛiišin and Wišqii gave Pacheedaht permission to use Huu-ay-aht’s paddle song.
“Today we enjoyed a lot of great sharing of culture and speaking of wise words,” Chief Councillor Jones said on behalf of Pacheedaht Heriditary Chief Frank Queesto Jones. “We are very honoured to accept the spiritual pole from the Huu-ay-aht First Nations Hereditary Chief. We will place the pole in a dedicated space of honour to serve as a permanent reminder of the connection between our Nations. On behalf of all Queesto family, ƛ̓eekoo ƛ̓eekoo.”