Charlotte Views: For Chief Gidansda as for Dr. King, authority has roots in respect

Being witness to the potlatch was to see history made.

After taking on a new name and regalia

At the recent potlatch of theakyalsiiG̱awaay clan, newly recognized Chief Gidansda spoke first of the difference between authority and power. The hereditary chief has no authority, he said, other than that granted by the respect he achieves. This is true of everyone. Authority should stem only from respect, or from the human power that we recognize within each of us. Human power expands through trust, sharing, cooperation, creativity, virtue, honour, and co-recognition of everyone’s human dignity. The potlatch was certainly a demonstration of human power in all forms.

Some would disagree about how authority is achieved. This is because authority can be achieved through either respect or control. Control, whose lifeblood is fear, opposes respect. With control, through the twin forces of violence and domination, authority is thrust unto others. But this is not the same authority spoken by Gidansda. Authority based in control is entirely other to authority grounded in respect.

Being witness to the potlatch was to see history made. Not only the history of the Haida, but the history of the world far beyond the territorial bounds of the Haida Nation. All history is lived and we all live out the entirety of the human story. But there are times when the telling of this story is most pronounced, told in ways that call for pause. Listening to the speeches, watching the telling of stories through dance throughout the potlatch, and witnessing the creation and sharing of great wealth reminded me of a great chapter in the American story.

American human rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Power properly understood is nothing but the ability to achieve purpose. It is the strength required to bring about social, political, and economic change.” Speaking to an audience of ministers in 1967, King further talked about how power must be embraced by those seeking moral justice. At the time “Black Power” was a force that many feared was out of control, rising up from the African American ghettos like a tinder box fuelled by centuries of racialized segregation and white supremacy. How can power be a force for good when the power of the American government oppressed African Americans? Did force against force work? These questions were before King and the movement he helped lead, requiring an answer for the trajectory of history to be righted.

King called for a movement to build and exercise power, based in love and for the purpose of love. This power, juxtaposed with “power without love,” reckless and abusive, and “love without power,” sentimental and anemic, was power for the purpose of creating history and capable of carrying out the “demands of justice.” To King, justice corrects all that stands against love. When Gidansda speaks of respect he means this in his own way. To me, respect and love are two sides of the same coin. Respect, the recognition of each other’s human power, is like love, the embodiment of human power.

Building power through a culture of love, respect, and honour shapes human history on human terms. Every aspect of the potlatch was a demonstration of power built in this way. It was a powerful testament not only to power and respect ofakyalsiiG̱awaay clan and their chief, but also to the universal gift of human creation. Through ceremony, story, connection, tradition, and creation the power of mutual respect was expanded, witnessed, demonstrated, and cultivated for everyone. The impact of the history created at the potlatch will ripple out for generations, across continents, and through all things.

 

Just Posted

Moms of those killed by illicit opioids take to B.C. Legislature in call for action

Moms Stop the Harm, a nationwide network of families who have lost loved ones to overdoses rally

Gwaii Haanas Report: Talking About Everything plan

By Victoria Leslie A dinner of crab legs and clam fritters, halibut… Continue reading

115 new wildfires burning across B.C. due to 19,000 lightning strikes

More fires expected to start today, says BC Wildfire Service officials

CHN seeks injunction against logging at Collison Point

Weeks after ordering an end to a blockade there, the B.C. Supreme… Continue reading

Marijuana to be legal in Canada Oct. 17: Trudeau

Prime Minister made the announcement during question period in the House of Commons

VIDEO: Canadian toddler caught practising hockey skills in crib

Eli Graveline is getting praise from far and wide as the internet freaks out of cute throwback video

Man shot dead in Surrey ID’d as hockey coach and father of two

Murder of Paul Bennett – a respected Peace Arch Hospital worker and ‘champion of sport’ – ‘not random’

Serial killer Robert Pickton transferred to Quebec: victim’s family

Pickton was convicted in December 2007 of six counts of second degree murder

Canadian Syrian children’s choir not to attend festival over fears about U.S. travel

Many kids are recent immigrants from countries covered by Trump travel ban

B.C. teacher ends Jeopardy! winning streak, taking home US$69,000

Ali Hasan, from New Westminster, has been gaining fans as a “one-man invasion,” says Alex Trebek

Jett Woo highlights 5 Canucks choices on Day 2 of NHL entry draft

WHL star out of Moose Jaw tabbed in Round 2

In a matter of hours, women in Saudi Arabia will be allowed to drive

Change was announced as a royal decree in 2017 by Crown Prince Mohammen bin Salman

Feds announce measures to protect endangered whale species

Canada’s Whale Initiative is part of the federal government’s $1.5 billion Ocean Protection Plan

Most Read