When I first started blogging Diana was kind enough to put this seedling in her garden and help me to grow. When she found out I had lived in an Indian Village she asked me to share with her what I could of my time in the village This blog, a part of my story is my way of thanking her for her kindness.
I was born into a family that claimed British, Scottish, French, Irish and even a drop of Spanish blood (courtesy of the Armada). Basically raised in Vancouver Canada for my first 17 years. Just your basic Anglo white bread.
Ten years and a few adventures later I was a newly married Lighthouse Keeper on Ivory Island in Millbank Sound. Skipping ahead about 5 years you find me and my family driving into Kitamaat Village where I am about to start my new life as an United Church of Canada minister in training. Unbeknownst to me this was to become the pinched waist in the hourglass of my life. Everything before moved through and became what I now am.
Before I left for the village my two friends and mentors both gave me the same advice; be yourself, love the people, and walk not drive around the village. This turned out to be excellent advice. My day quickly evolved into a very pleasant routine. Breakfast, the office for work, study and prayer, walk and visit, lunch, into town to visit the sick in hospital back in time for our daughters return from school. The evenings were semi family time but open to the needs of the village.
This is a hard story to tell without sounding conceited and I do not want to have the following read as if I was someone special. The special people in this story are the people of the village and my mentors that gave me such good advice.
The first day in the village I was given respect because I represented the church. The second day… I had to begin creating my story and my reputation. I listened to the people. I shared their food, their joys and most importantly their grief. I came to love them. As I shared in their lives the people were looking into me. Slowly, carefully and very gently they began to draw out the best of me and weed out the worst. This gardening of my spirit had two remarkable effects. I became a much better person. I also became someone the village had a place for.
In time there was a settlement feast. This is a time when the family and clan of a deceased person thanks the village for the assistance that was given to the family in their time of grief. It is a also a time of renewal and a time when rites of passage are performed. People would be called forward and in recognition of a new time in their life would be ‘Baptized in the Indian Way’ with a new name that would carry new respect and responsibility in the village.
To my surprise and pleasure my wife and daughter were escorted to the front and had names placed upon them. To my shock I was also escorted forward.
My wife and daughter were named and placed in the Fish Clan. Myra was given a fitting name and status and my daughter was named and given to Melissa Woods a village matriarch and well on in years, to be her walking stick.
I was taken into the Eagle Clan. Ida Wilson became my village mother. Her husband Fred, my village father. I was given the name Gups-Y-Bees, ‘Bringer of the gentle wind’ in the High language of the Haisla, Little Fart in the vernacular. I was also given the responsibly of being the Village Lepled. No longer was I merely the United Church minister. Now I belonged to the village.
Since that time many things have happened in my life and in the life of the village, but some thing remain the same.
My love for and responsibility to my clan and village remains even though I am now in the Philippines. There are those in the village who still reach into my spirit to guide and teach me. I am Gups-Y-Bees, Eagle Clan and Haisla. One day if it is meant to be I will return to my village. Perhaps alive or perhaps just to have my ashes buried in a corner of the graveyard amongst my friends and family.
Because the Haisla took me in
My Clan is Eagle, my Village is Kit-a-maat.