Walter Thomas leads a song during a potlatch honouring the late Darrell Campbell on Saturday. (Denise Titian photos)
Friends of the late Darrell Campbell joined his family at a memorial potlatch to celebrate his life and dry their tears, six years after his sudden passing.
Campbell, 49, was on his way to Makah Tribal Territory in Neah Bay, Wash. for a fisheries meeting on Aug. 23, 2011. He was riding with his cousin Angus Campbell and a teenaged niece, Sophie, when the pickup truck they were in was struck head-on by an SUV that crossed over into their lane of travel.
Darrell Campbell, who was seated in the front passenger seat, died instantly. It was later determined that the driver of the other vehicle was impaired.
Angus and his daughter were seriously injured in the accident but survived after spending several weeks in American hospitals.
The Campbell family spent days in Port Angeles immediately following the accident, taking care of the painful business of bringing their loved one back home to Canada. In a cloud of shock and grief, the family was lovingly cared for by strangers.
Ivey Campbell said that the tribes of Lower Elwah, Jamestown and Makah immediately came to their aid after her father’s accident. They provided motel rooms, meals, comfort and prayers. Even the crew of Blackball Ferry’s MV Coho went out of their way, delaying sailings until all family members were aboard.
“It seemed everybody there knew what happened, knew we were the strangers in town and they came to help us,” Ivey recalled.
For more than a year the Campbell family traveled back and forth from their homes in Ahousaht to Port Angeles Wash., first to be with Angus and Sophie Campbell while they recovered in American hospitals, and then to attend court proceedings. Steve W. Boyd, 48, pled guilty to vehicular homicide and two counts of vehicular assault. On Jul. 3, 2012 he was sentenced to five years in prison.
Finally, on Aug. 26, 2017 the immediate family of Darrell Campbell – his wife Janice and their children Ivey, Julia, Sabrina, along with the young man of the house, grandson, Jamal, age 14, were prepared to go forward with a memorial potlatch.
Ivey said the family carefully prepared over six years, consulting with family and elders on the proper way to carry out this important business.
Jamal was only eight years old when his grandfather passed and the family was advised that, as the eldest male descendant of Darrell, he would need to be culturally prepared to serve as host at the potlatch. Part of the preparation meant getting a traditional name which came from extended family in Ditidaht several months before.
Jamal and his family laid out a seafood feast for their guests at the Maaqtusiis School Gym. In life, Darrell Campbell made his living as Ahousaht’s Fisheries Department Manager and part of his job was to deliver food fish to Ahousaht members. And so it was fitting that the Campbell’s guests were treated to the bounty of Ahousaht’s waters. There were all varieties of fish along with fresh crab, prawns, and rare delicacies like kwakmis (herring eggs).
Angus Campbell talked of Darrell’s desire to learn about different methods of fishing. “He asked people like the late Johnny O. (Frank) to teach him how to seine fish and a bunch of the older guys went out one weekend, all volunteers, and loaded up with sockeye,” Angus reminisced. He went on to say he admired the dedication of people like them who gave their time and energy to feed the people.
Two of Ahousaht’s Ha’wiih shared their ceremonial curtains in honor of Darrell Campbell. Ha’wilth Nathan Charlie was closely related to Darrell and Ha’wilth Rocky Titian was a close friend and co-worker.
The first order of business was a ceremonial blessing or cleansing of the floor followed by the singing of Ha’wilth Uukwa Qum’s (James Swan) Yaht-yahta, which is a ‘drying of the tears’ song and dance, according to Ivey.
There were a few fun dances before dinner was served.
The evening was filled with dances and presentations from several family groups including the Thomases, Jeff Charleson, the Franks, Lower Elwha Klallam, Jamestown, Ditidaht and the Campbells, to name a few.
The Campbell family prepared several gifts for their helpers from Washington State. “We gave them a carved plaque, engraved mirror to hang in their building, blankets, paddles and shawls,” said Ivey. Some of the people they wanted to thank could not be at the potlatch so several gifts were sent with relatives that could be there. “We gave away everything we had, we even sent the Coho Ferry a paddle, because they would hold the ferry for us,” said Ivey.
The festivities went on until 6:30 Sunday morning.