Alarms go off. Groggy brains struggle to process things as Lisa wishes us “?Abanase.” “What did you say?” Asks Patrick, “Up and honest?” The day starts out with peals of laughter as Lisa explains that this means “Good morning” in her language, Tsilhqot’in.
8:00am, Doug’s kitchen:
We are served a most amazing breakfast. It’s true — bacon does make everything better.
9:00am, on the road:
Coffee has kicked in, gear is charged, and we are back on the road. It’s a stunningly clear, crisp blue day in Terrace, and the autumn colours are in full force. We criss-cross Terrace trying to find vantage points to capture all this beauty.
11:00am, Kitselas Band Office in Kulspai:
We are blown away by the Kitselas Community Coordinator named CJ. CJ is young and passionate and extremely well-versed in the history and the issues of his nation. Our conversation is rich and varied, littered with tidbits of knowledge: “Did you know,” asks CJ, “that the word ‘tribe’ originally meant sheep going to slaughter?
That’s why it’s so important that we stop using words that were placed on us and start reclaiming our own words and framework for seeing ourselves” “Did you know we are developing a constitution for our Nation?” “Do you want to see a video? This is our youth, playing our traditional game for the first time in 150 years.” We sit there and soak it all in, eager to hear his perspective and learn the realities of youth in his nation. We part ways, but with promises of a follow up conversation on our way back through Terrace.
1:30pm, Old Hazleton (Gitxsan Nation):
We meet with Sandy, a successful business leader in her community who is happy to show us the community hall (complete with fry bread, herring roe on seaweed, and bingo) as well as her family business. We speak at length about the challenges facing youth in her community, about the shift that happened 15 odd years ago where youth in her community started to disengage more and more.
She speaks to us about the expectation to have children young; to have your parents help you raise your children so that you can continue to pursue training and career opportunities. We learn about the balance between matrilineal lineages and the duties and obligations of the patrilineal side. These family bonds and the accompanying support system are crucial, we all agree, to creating a positive future for youth everywhere.
3:00pm, ‘Ksan Historical Village:
Sandy graciously shows us around the ‘Ksan Historical Village, where we are privileged to be able to enter one of the longhouses and explore artifacts from pre-contact. As we leave I am struck by a sign in the corner:
We are a new people
We are an old people
We are the same people
Deeper than before
4:15pm, Old Hazleton:
We interview Stephanie, a young barista at the coffee shop. She speaks to the employment challenges that her generation faces, but also to the web of support from friends and family. She’s moved back from Vancouver to raise her son here. Despite everything, it’s home —surrounded by loved ones and the beauty of the mountains, river, and valley.
6:00pm, Corner of Highway 16 and the Kitwanga Junction
We pull over in a gas station parking lot, our last chance for phone calls before heading north. The car becomes an office as we scramble to make last minute phone calls and emails. We’re entertained by the traffic that comes through: trucks pulling trucks. Trucks pulling boats. Trucks pulling 4 quads at a time. It’s a gentle reminder that we’re about to turn off Highway 16 and head north into the remote backcountry.
7:30pm, Somewhere North of Kitwanga:
We see a bear.
I’m sitting on a 7 year old boy’s bed writing this blog and fielding questions from the two precocious children of our host: Wanna play Minecraft? Wanna see our Halloween decorations? Look at me flying! It’ll be another few hours of work yet, but the kids are a great reminder to stop and enjoy the ride.