Saturday, September 13, 2008

Kingcome (Gwa'yi)

The town of Kingcome holds wonders and suprises. I found a lot, and am still finding a lot, of joys, culture, and strength here. I wrote a bunch of stuff last night and before, so here is that:

We left on a foggy morning, drifting against the still winds and unhelpful currents, in the grey pre-dawn light, for Alert Bay. Abe had to get there by 7:45, so we got up at 5:30 and began motoring the 7 miles. We were being entrusted with these ceremonial masks for the potlatch that Abe will put on, something that made me a little nervous, because I don’t like to put too much value on a boat I am captaining. After Alert Bay, we took off again, and fought the current some more, going through some little passages in the islands nearby, then we crossed the Queen Charlotte Strait and started doing some fishing. The current was against us, and the wind at our backs, so we rolled up all our sails and the wind moved us ever so slowly forward, but we could fish along the kelp beds on the way. Dad did a good job of catching a lot of fish, and we had some good eating that night. We anchored near Monday Anchorage, and we found a shrimp pot out in the middle of the strait, abandoned, tangled up in the kelp, and in really deep water, so we picked it up and gave it a try ourselves. The next morning (Thursday) we picked the pot and got some shrimp (which we had for lunch) and away we went. Basically we motored the whole day, with a tiny bit of sailing once we got into Kingcome Inlet. The fishing in Kingcome was really good, I caught two flounders and a myriad of rock fish. We got into the government dock in Kingcome at 6 and got a ride up the river to town.

This is where I’ve come to realize where I am. Civilization is a town. Altair is like camping, but after sailing into the far reaches of BC, and then leaving my precious boat behind, we got driven up a river for about 30 minutes on a dugout cedar canoe (with an outboard). It felt like going into the Amazon rainforest, except cold as hell and I wasn’t worried about the Crocodiles. The water is milky from the glacial runoff, and it’s glacial.

We got into town, and everyone knows Abe, so a lot of people we passed said hi and we stopped and got introduced and talked a while. We had to unload the huge pile of food we brought in my boat, so after that we went over to a neighbor’s house for dinner, and I had some of the best cinnamon rolls I’ve ever had. Now it is time to go to bed. It is so funny to have electricity and heat. When was the last time I slept on land? Qualicum Beach?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Today we get up and go down to the flats (near the mouth of the river) and we will go dig up the roots that Abe has been growing in the gardens down there. This is going to be the most important day, because harvesting the roots is the reason for the feast. But I will tell about that after it happens.
Yesterday was quite a day, we got up and tended to all the people arriving for the feast, Abe worrying about everything and rushing around to make sure things turned out all right. I went down the river again, to move my boat, and then came up in the dugout canoe again. It really stuns me how special this place is, that you have to take a boat or a plane, and then take another boat, in order to get here. After collecting everyone, we all got together for dinner. What an event. Adam spoke for grace, before eating, but in Kwa’kwalla, and then everyone lined up from the eldest to the youngest to get food.

Once everyone had eaten we people started standing up to make speeches about Abe, Adam, the feast, Lucy (who was having a birthday party that night), and all the other people in the room. I even got named, being thanked for being there, which was quite special. The speeches went on for about an hour and a half and the kids began to get restless, so I went outside to play with them, and jumped on the trampoline for a little while with them before going inside.
Floyd was inside watching TV, and we started talking, and he told me the story of the Squamish creation story. I’ll try to relate it.

In the earliest day, Man was immortal, created by the Thunderbird out of the Universe and he lived on a mountain top, surrounded by water. Man didn’t know anything about the world, but he learned everything from the animals. He watched the animals finding mates and raising young and taking care of each other, and he wanted to have the same, but could not. Then he tried to kill himself, because it overwhelmed him to understand the love and caring the animals had, but could not share it. But he was immortal, so he could not die when he threw himself from the mountain into the water.

In the depths of the sea, he realized that he wanted Woman to share the world with, so he asked the Thunderbird, and the Thunderbird told Man that he could have Woman, but he could not be immortal anymore. So Man took a rib from his body and put it in the earth, and made Woman. Woman is of the earth, Man is of the Universe.

Saturday proper: We got up decently early and went down to the flats, which is the area right at the mouth of the river, to dig up some roots that Abe’s been cultivating for this feast all summer. We dug them up, and spent some time filming the traditional things about the digging, and had a good time with all that, then went back to the town, and we got invited to a naming ceremony feast, where we all had a great dinner in the Big House, which is like a long house. I spent a lot of time with William, a young boy who is learning a lot about the culture and always wants to play on the trampoline with me. I got a few pictures of him. There are also some little girls that had a great time on the trampoline, they all wanted me to hold them while bouncing as high as I could, and then they would squeal as loud as they could in my ear. Ahh, children…

I feel welcome in this town. I feel like I could make home here almost. I like it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

dude, what's with the guy standing there with a gun on his hip? Not even clipped shut, like he's standing there ready to shoot at any moment. Is that common up there, like the wild west or something?