Elders Forum: Tswal-sapa Hish-shim-yitk (Bringing Families Together to Be One)

By Nora Martin, January 24, 2017

The Quu?usa Team Blankets Kaamath, Levi Marting, for his work in traditional healing.

Photo by Nora Martin

Tofino — 

Revitalization and Preservation of Language and Healing from Indian Residential Schools were the top priorities of a two-day gathering held at Tin Wis on Jan. 17 and Jan. 18.

Kaamath, Levi Martin, shared his knowledge, wisdom and experience of working in the field of traditional healing/medicine.

 Levi began by saying “Today, a lot has changed in our culture.” He went on to say spiritual healing is more powerful than anything else.

His late wife Millie Smith had a stroke and the doctor said there was not much more they could do for her and said she would not live more than three days. Millie was paralysed, could hardly talk and was bleeding in the center of her brain.  

Kaamath refused to accept the doctor’s diagnosis and instead focused his intention of prayer on the center of Millie’s brain. He prayed over the medicine that she was given, and did a ceremony for Millie, and after three days Millie started to talk. The doctor treating Millie said her recovery was a miracle.  Millie lived another seven years.

Levi has traveled extensively throughout Vancouver Island to provide cultural healing and said that many of those patients he worked with have improved their health greatly.  Levi is currently working with the First Nations Health Authority’s Traditional Medicines Committee.

Tla-o-qui-aht members traveled from Port Alberni, Nanaimo, Opitsaht, Esowista and Ty Histanis for the two- day event. Accommodation was provided and some of the elders said this made it easier than traveling back and forth to Opitsaht or Esowista, and this gave them the chance to visit each other.

After dinner on Tuesday night several of the elders went to watch the cultural practise that was taking place at Tin Wis.

Elmer Frank and Tammy Dorward emceed the workshop.

Quu?usa Staff and Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council Community Health Nurses were on site to provide information and support.

Chris Seitcher and Ann Marshall, Quu?usa Support Workers, facilitated a session on “The Importance of Elders.”

Cynthia Fitton and Chris Curley, NTC Nurses, provided information on Home and Community Care and Prenatal nutrition. Leah Morgan, Tla-o-qui-aht records keeper, led the discussion on Genealogy and Family Trees.

Craig Devine shared his experience of taking care of his wife Lisa who suffered a brain aneurism. Despite the doctor’s pessimism, he, his family and community members continue to see improvements through family love and support.

Margaret Thomas and Lizzie Curley were teaching cedar making, Bev Martin provided Reiki, Marissa Frank provided makeovers and hair cuts and cleansings were offered to the elders.

Service Canada out of Port Alberni was on site to provide information and to assist with filling out old age pension forms etc.

Richard Watts, Quu?usa Support Worker, provided an update regarding the Indian Residential School (IRS) Day Scholar class action progress. The settlement will take about another yea- and-a-half, and it is available for survivors who attended Residential Schools during the day and went back home in the evening.                                                                                                                                                                                        Also, descendants can fill out forms to apply for Indian Residential School compensation of a family member who passed away.

Richard also stated that Day Schools, such as the one in Opitsaht, is separate from the IRS Day Scholar class raction, and it is expected to take about two years or more to settle.

For further information or forms for the Day Scholars or Day Schools call Richard at 250-724-3939.

Saya Masso, TFN Lands and Resources, provided an update regarding the proposed Trail Extension from Tofino to Ucluelet. Parks and Recreation Canada had consulted with TFN and are seeking a name for the trail. Concensus seemed to be with the suggested name ?apsciik (refers to person going the right way).

Short term employment will be created from January to May, and interested to contact Saya for further information.

Stella made an appearance and was the star attraction of the two-days. The elders and audience were very amused and enjoyed the show she put on.

Sgt. Blaine Mumford of the Tofino Detachment provided a wide range of information regarding the types and levels of elder abuse, including physical (slapping, shoving and hitting), emotional/psychological (mental harm, psychological duress and isolating elders) and financial abuse (use of financial assets without consent).

If you know of an elder suffering from any sort of abuse you can call the RCMP or Darren Saare, social worker at 250-731-1313.

Kristy Allen, Victim Services of Tofino/Ucluelet, was also on site to provide information about victim services. Those who have been assaulted or have been in a car accident can access the service.

Chief Councillor Elmer Frank invited Sgt. Mumford to attend TFN Community Safety Meetings that will be organized verily soon.

Stan Matthews of Quu?usa provided grounding exercises throughout the two- days.

Elmer Frank acknowledged MP Gord Johns for attending the forum, and thanked him for representing TFN and bringing forth issues to the Parliament Building in Ottawa.

Master Carver Joe Martin shared his vast knowledge and wisdom about arts. His display included a bent wood box, small 16-inch canoe, mask and paddle that he carved. Carvings on the Bent Wood box include teachings about the moon, North Star and the four seasons of the year.

Marika Swan, Tla-o-qui-aht, provided an update regarding virtual museums. Marika did a slide show of some of the art collections that Ivy Martin and Marika did research on.

Marika took pictures of the house posts and made a collage of house posts to share the info with the elders. The house posts were confiscated in the early 1940’s and are presently in a field museum in Chicago.

The hose posts were placed at the entrance of the Ha’wilth’s house, and when visitors came to the community they could tell who was the head chief. The carving had many meanings. For example, an open mouth meant “this is my territory”, a sea serpent reminded members to be quick.

Some of the elders recognized the house posts and were appreciative to learn about the art collections. Marika asked the elders about the best way to share the information in a respectful way, and is planning on sharing the info at the annual On the Edge Carving Festival and other community events.

 Marika said there are Nuu-chah-nulth artifacts in museums around the world. Some of the items include headdresses, rattles and dance screens.

Marika is making plans to travel to Chicago to photograph the art collections and if anyone else is interested in going to a museum, contact Marika and she will see what she can do regarding funding.

Plans are underway to repatriate artifacts that are in Museums and to build a virtual museum in Tofino.

Ivy Martin, a TFN member, is working with Iris Frank, the education manager to develop a Language App that will be available for individuals and families to learn the Tla-o-qui-aht native language. Elders were invited to add ideas on how to promote language learning .

An Elders open mic included healing, safety, role modeling, learning, educating, unity, communication, iisaak, governance, culture, history, sobriety, respecting and acknowledging diversity, native place of healing, food security, tribal journey’s, inclusivity of all elders, improving Health and Wellness and, regular meetings/gatherings etc.

 Door prizes were drawn throughout the two-days and home made bags were given to the elders.

Elmer acknowledged Iris Frank and her team for organizing the forum.

Iris Frank and the team had a debriefing session on Jan 20, and are making concrete plans to follow through with some of the recommendations that were made by the elders.

Sponsors of the Elders Forum were First Nations Health Authority, Tin Wis Resort and Creative Salmon.

Moses Martin and Bruce Frank donated fish for the elders dinner on Jan. 18.