Charlie family dries tears for late Kelsmaht Ha’wilth

By Denise Titian, April 25, 2017

Hanuquii and his speakers, Guy Louie and John Hudson Webster

Photos by Denise Titian

Ahousaht — 

Friends and family of the late Edgar Charlie gathered in Ahousaht April 15 to dry their tears and to celebrate his life.

Hosted by Hanuquii, Ha’wilth Nate Charlie, the celebration drew family and friends from down island and the Pacific Northwest where Edgar lived in his later years.

Chief Nate Charlie said that this gathering was something that his father wanted and told his children about before he passed away.

“He spoke to us, he told us…and he lived a full life and wanted us to do this for him,” Charlie said. He went on to say that his father was always teaching family culture, right to the end. “Another teaching he left with us was to invite all. Don’t leave anyone out,” he added.

And so, with that teaching, the Charlie siblings went door-to-door in Ahousaht inviting people. They went to various gatherings to make public invitations and they took to social media to send out even more invitations.

Some of Edgar’s children and grandchildren live south of the Canada/U.S. border and have built connections with Native American communities there, through both family and friends. Many of them made the long trip to Ahousaht to pay their respects to the family.

The doors to the Thunderbird Hall opened at noon and guests were given lunch and invited to mingle until dinner hour. Following dinner and clean-up, the guests witnessed a ceremony intended to spiritually cleanse the floor and keep everyone there safe.

The next sacred ceremony was one in which the soul of the host’s father would be released, free to continue his journey home and allowing those left behind to dry their tears.

People stood to share stories about their fond memories of Edgar.

“He was always getting our people together, whether it be for culture or sports when he was coaching,” said Angus Campbell. Even when he moved away from Ahousaht many years ago, he made connections in Victoria. “He would visit, sit with elders for tea and chumus and listen to those teachings that go way back,” said Campbell.

He went on to say that the cultural groups and meetings in Victoria that Edgar used to take part in still go on to this day.

“They might rent a hall for Easter and invite everyone, not just Ahousahts, to get together,” said Campbell.

Through these gatherings the ancient teachings get shared and carried on to future generations. Campbell said the people want to honour late Edgar Charlie for all that he did for them. “Want to make sure that everyone keeps getting together and the teachings continue to be passed on,” he said.

Reverend Earl Johnson travelled to Ahousaht with his son and grandson to honor their dear family friends, the Charlies.

Johnson has served the west coast for decades, making life-long friends along the way. He said it was his honour to come to Ahousaht to celebrate the life of Edgar Charlie.

“I first came to Ahousaht 66 years ago, when I was 22,” Johnson told the crowd. He recalled the elders that were there to greet him when he arrived in 1951; Francis and Delia Charlie, John and Mattie Campbell and many more.

To the Charlie family, Rev. Johnson said, “You are all blessed to have parents who shared God’s love with you.”

Earl’s son Dean said he came to Ahousaht 30 years ago to teach at the school. He said he met Edgar as he walked up from the wharf.

“His house was right there above the dock and he knew my father so he waited there to welcome us,” said Dean. He went on to say that he has plenty of fond memories of Edgar. “He was a great man,” said Dean.

The Johnson family passed on sentiments to the Charlie family from people who could not be there that day; Rev. Mervyn Bowden, Sharon Johnson, Dr. Richard Atleo and family.

Hanuquii told Ha-Shilth-Sa that the feast was about letting his father’s spirit free to continue his heavenly journey. During the evening he would be ‘dressed’ in front of the people, meaning his family would clothe him in his chiefly attire.

The remaining Kelsmaht Ha’wiih would be called to stand with him, to show the people the Kelsmaht government, according to Hanuquii.

Special guests at the gathering included chiefs from Squaxin Island, Olympia, WA. Chief Jeremiah George would be receiving a special gift from Hanuquii and his family in memory of Edgar,  the use of a song.

Tahola Chief Guy Capoeman also traveled from Washington State with a traditional dugout canoe that was gifted to the late Edgar Charlie back in 2012.

“He always looked after my father and the Ahousaht elders when we were in their territory,” said Hanuquii.

The Charlie family celebrated until the early hours, dancing and giving gifts, in memory of their beloved father.