Losses mount in Nuu-chah-nulth Nations and prompt prayer gathering tomorrow morning

By Debora Steel, April 26, 2017
Port Alberni — 

People are going to gather by the Somass River tomorrow morning with the intent of connecting with the spirit world to receive guidance from the ancestors for the love of the Nuu-chah-nulth Nations, said Joe Tom, Senior Quu’asa Wellness Worker at the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council.

He said the gathering is meant to stop everything for a moment of prayer and put words of concern into action over all the deaths that have happened in Nuu-chah-nulth territories over the last six or seven months—60 is the estimate.

The gathering will be held at 7 a.m. at Tseshaht paper mill dam for those in the Port Alberni area. The time and location were decided with purpose. The time is the beginning of day and people will be able to see past the pain and darkness of loss to the light of the journey ahead.

There is no agenda beyond this connecting. Each person will ask for help and each will get the answers they need to guide them as individuals, and then as families and community and nations.

Water, in tradition, is purifying, and from which is gained immense strength, said Stan Matthew, Teechuktl CHS Training Coordinator, who helped organize the gathering.

He told Ha-Shilth-Sa that after a talk with Joe, and hearing his call that ‘something needed to be done’ he contacted Trevor Little, and visited him, taking a gift, asking if Little’s prayer song could be used by the river.

Little was in support, Matthew said. He is asking that those who have drums bring them to the gathering to sing along with Little as the morning prayer takes place.

Matthew has also suggested that Nuu-chah-nulth nations in the north and central regions go out in their territories and take part where they can. Jimmy Johnson of Mowachaht/Muchalaht near Gold River is organizing a gathering down by the river in that community. “It will be good for our people,” he said in a Facebook post.

Tla-o-qui-aht will gather in front of Levi Martin's house at Esowista at 7 a.m.

Joe Tom said whoever comes to the gathering is meant to be there. He also said that a gathering of great number would be powerful in their prayers.

“We need to stop and focus on what’s happening and ask the Creator what we need” to feel comfort, joy and peace.  How do we as individuals move forward in a good way instead of with fear, anger and frustration with all the loss; to see, hear and listen very closely in order to receive guidance on how to walk a good path. “To find yourself again.”

Joe Tom said many of the recent deaths we are experiencing are not the natural deaths of old age, where we are happy at the long life of a person and the gifts left behind by them.

He talked about drugs and suicide and disease that have contributed to the rising toll on life in Nuu-chah-nulth nations.

He said if we don’t stop and listen to the ancestors, then the taking will continue.

Stan Matthew said he hopes the gathering will help bring balance to the communities through connecting with Nass (the Creator). He said the losses are too much, and organizers are asking for people to stop, get grounded and refocus on “who we are as a people” and “take care of ourselves.”

The whole mental health team at the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council has been stretched to the limit in responding to the losses, and the vicarious trauma of that loss was becoming apparent, said Matthew. He said Teechuktl manager Vina Robinson recognized her team was in need of rejuvenation and called for the whole team to do a debriefing session to help them deal with their feelings. It also had a cultural component to the session, Matthew said.

Stan said the gathering can be best described with the Nuu-chah-nulth principle of Hishuk ish Tsawalk (everything is one). Tomorrow we “use some of our traditions. Hishuk ish Tsawalk. We are all one and tomorrow we will be practicing that,” he said. The people who gather will put aside everything to do something good and healing.   

Joe Tom said the gathering will bring guidance in the” brightness of the light” and people will quit talking and it will be put into action by all of us.