Hiłḥiyiis

Just over one year ago, the CBT co-hosted a community gathering called “hišinqʷiił” at the Kwisitis Visitor Centre in Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ territory. It was the first time in a long time that representatives and members from all 7 communities in the Biosphere Region came together in the spirit of healing and reconciliation to talk about unique strengths, shared history, and cultural diversity. In order to commemorate the event, the CBT commissioned Robinson Cook, a skilled local carver, to create a piece that reflected the gathering. He unveiled the piece, called Hiłḥiyiis (“standing on the shoulders of”) at Carving on the Edge Festival earlier this month, explaining that while CBT is its steward and official owner, it belongs to all the communities in the region. Since moving it to the office after the festival, we have enjoyed having community members drop by to view the carving, and it̓s been interesting to hear individuals’ interpretations of it. In the spirit of the piece belonging to all the communities of the region, its first community appearance will be at the hišukniš c̓awaak histaqšiƛniš ʔiqh muut – Language Gathering at the Tin Wis resort on October 18-19.

Brooke, Rebecca, and Robinson together after he brought Hiłḥiyiis to the CBT office following Carving on the Edge Festival.

Robinson explains the carving below:

The woman figure represents all of us as residents of the west coast communities; the wolf represents the Nuu-chah-nulth ancestors. We are all standing on the shoulders of the ancestors of these lands. The name comes from the Frank family in Ahouasht and I am using it here with permission from my brother and elder, David Frank Sr.

The Qʷayac̕iik (wolf), the ancestors, are the foundation for this carving, the base of the totem pole, holding all things up. The Qʷayac̕iik speaks to natural law- respect for nature, ourselves, and each other. The Qʷayac̕iik is holding a Salmon to remind us of the interconnectedness of all things and of our responsibilities to take care of the environment and all that nourishes us. 

The human figure is portrayed as a woman to represent future leadership. She has a voice symbolized by the abalone shell on her throat. We need to listen to this voice, it has been silenced for too long. Her eyes, as painted by Deanna Lankin, represent all cultures. In one hand, she is holding a paddle to represent the tools we possess for moving ahead in life. Her other hand is holding the gunnels of the canoe to show leadership steadying the boat as we navigate the waters ahead.

Nuu-chah-nulth teachings use the Čapac (canoe) as an analogy for our lives. We choose what goes in and out of our canoes if we are living in balance. In the absence of balance, we lose control and choice. This Čapac is formed in the ƛaʔuukʷiatḥ (Tla-o-quiaht) style of the Martin family. The roughed out prow and technical advice was provided by Joe Martin. All the figures are inside the Capac to represent the fact that as residents of the west coast we are all in the same boat.

Lastly, the paddle has 7 abalone shells for each community. There is an Eagle carved on the paddle to represent vision. The gifts of the Eagle spirit are to see from above, the big picture, but also to be brave and use that vision to look deep within ourselves to affect humility, personal growth and change.

I am not the inventor of all these concepts. I am practising what reconciliation means to me, in part, to be a good listener. We have to reconcile our right to belonging.

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