Young women celebrated at Coming of Age ceremony

By Carla Moss, January 31, 2017

Kayleigh Frank, Tamara Thomas and Jaden Frank arrive at their Aatys-too-thlah Jan. 28.

Photo by Carol Frank.


Tofino — 

Like their older sisters, 14 years earlier, Kayleigh Frank, Tamara Thomas and Jaden Frank arrived at their Aatys-too-thlah Jan. 28 carried in a traditional chupitz on the shoulders of their male relatives.

Like their sisters before them, they met one of the first demands of womanhood, remaining calm even if they didn’t feel that way.

The chupitz, made in Tla-o-qui-aht years before and carried to Mowachaht/Muchlaht as a gift, came full circle, now carrying the young ladies in a celebration of transformation and the name of Kayleigh and Jaden’s paternal grandmother’s birth community, Yuquaht Spirit.

The transformation from childhood to womanhood was expressed when the girls were danced on swings all around the floor in front of Ha’wilth Heesquisinuplthsheelth’s curtain.

While still on the swings, the girls’ feet were washed, representing the washing of childhood away.
The young women each received Guardians, whose role includes stepping in to watch over and care for them if their parents are not able to.

Kayleigh’s Guardians are Daisy Johnson, Bruce Frank, Kyle Adams, Nate Charlie and Trevor Frank.

Tamara’s Guardians are Philis Charles, Craig Devine, Steve Frank, Lori Campbell and Gordon Campbell.

Jaden’s Guardians are Margaret Tom, Elmer Frank, Bear Charlie, Chancellor Frank and Noah Thomas.
The Guardians were given hard football shaped balls which are meant to be thrown to the ground when a suitor asks for any of the young ladies’ hands in marriage. The suitor is then challenged to grapple with her family to take possession of the ball.

Andrew and Patrick Frank entertained the crowd for hours with the tuu-paht-dee, swaying a feather attached to their head regalia back and forth, challenging members of the crowd to catch it.

Denise Amos was the quickest lady, and guests from Ditidaht were thrilled when one of the Tates was the first to catch the feather for the men.

The widow of late Tyee Ha’wilth Wickaninnish, Carol Frank, Hakuum Thylik, made a presentation of necklaces to the young ladies and a vase to Janice and pictures to her grandson Ethan.

Carol, Francis and Janice communicated the closeness shared with their family through friendship, marriage and through their grandson Ethan Frank-Blackbird.

The Thomas family from Ahousaht, including the Soul Shakers, thrilled the crowd with their honoring of their young relatives with the singing of their songs, gifts and acknowledging their relations to the young women and their mother’s.

They expressed their appreciation for the parents of the young women, Francis and Janice, for raising them well and holding the Coming of Age party.

They also acknowledged Francis and Jan for raising Tamara, Janice’s late sister, Rose’s daughter.

The Campbell family from Ahousaht, from which Tamara Thomas’ father comes from, also acknowledged Francis and Janice for stepping in to parent Tamara. Tamara’s late father Darryl Campbell came from late Julia and Ernie Campbell. 

The young women were wrapped in blankets and urged Tamara to always remember where she comes from, that she is part of them and that she is loved.

A lighthearted part of the evening included honouring requests that had been made of the family. One young fellow, commonly called “Tin Wis Michael”, who was known for helping get water and chairs at practices,requested a vest and was made to dance for it.

A drum for Marshall Thomas was also announced at the party.

The Howard and Johnson families from Mowachaht/Muchlaht acknowledged their relation to the young ladies through Francis Frank’s mother and shared their respect for the way the young girls had been raised and for their Aatys-too-thlah, sentiments also echoed by the George Watts Jr.

Pat Charleson, brother to late Hakuum Columba Frank, shared how precious his young relatives are to their family and stressed the importance of family values and choosing a man who practices them.

Mamie took time to share a private moment with the young women at the front of the room, showing all how they listen to their elders with attentiveness and respect.

In the wee hours of the morning, Tla-o-qui-aht took the floor. Hours and hours of practice raised the sounds of celebration throughout the hall.

A highlight for many at the party was a dance shared by Marg Amos with Francis Frank and family that led to three generations of headdress dancers dancing on the floor at the same time.

The three generations were represented by Francis, his sons Chancellor and Trevor, his nephew Patrick and grandson Ethan.

From 12 p.m. to 7 a.m. the next morning, the young ladies sat at the front of the room, awake, calm and attentive, showing they had mastered yet another challenge of womanhood, in not only mastering exhaustion, but being able to share joy through it.