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Mike and Ralf share stories about their culture and the beliefs of their people.
Ralf and Mike were our guides around the Xat’sull Heritage Village. Ralf showed us the sweathouse. He seemed a bit nervous but when I asked him questions the stories came more naturally.
Four flags hang outside the sweathouse with the door facing east. The south is yellow and represents the Asian people, the mouse and the environment. The west is black, representing the African people, the grizzly, the black bear and all the thunder beasts and women. The north is white, representing the white people, the polar bear and men. The east is red, the native people, the eagle and self. Ralf shared the legend of the white buffalo and how the First Nations had been given the pipe. He spoke of how four types of tobacco would be added to the pipe and how important the number 4 is.
Mike spoke to us in the round house. The white man, who had been taught the First Nation language and could not say hook eest ka, called the underground homes quigly houses. Quigly means worms.
Mike shared the ways and beliefs of his people. There were no celebrations except for when the harvest was in and the people were prepared for the winter. He spoke of the plants and some of their medicinal purposes. He spoke of the belief of taking only what you need and if there isn’t enough, you don’t take anything. He told of the ideas of family and community, and that you thought of the well being of others and in that way you were taken care of.
I was incredibly struck by his words. Mike later offered to take us fishing and catch a salmon, share and celebrate with us. There was a big discussion in our group. As much as we wanted the salmon and to share in the experience, to show respect by accepting the offer of the meal, to see how the fish were caught, we did not need the fish and the fish were few. It was an hour before the decision was made that we would do our planned journal activity, eat our own food and Mike would take those of us interested to the fishing rock in the morning.
I spoke to Ralf about the residential schools, how he, his mother and his grandmother had all gone. How decimated his people’s numbers were after the white man had given them blankets with smallpox. There was so much pain in him. He spoke of the seventh generation where the world would go dark. How it would be his people leading with the traditional ways. They are not leading or listening. They are blaming and that is what they are teaching their children.
The German couple who built the Xat’sull Village were fired from their job as band members did not feel it right that people not of their land should be teaching their history. Mike and Ralf show a gratitude to this couple though and have been in charge for a year. They want to share their heritage with the people. I believe they will succeed. I know they succeeded with our group, especially with me.