After 10 paddles, a button blanket, jewellery and other regalia were stolen from her pickup, Marg Parker, a member of a Skidegate dance group in Vancouver for a special performance, has a message for islanders: “Never leave anything in your vehicle.”
She had just picked up Norina Gladstone, her two children and their substantial luggage, at the airport. Due to traffic, the women decided to stop at the mall for something to eat.
While they were in the bright lights upstairs, thieves in the underground parking lot broke into the cab and canopy of Ms Parker’s truck and made off with five duffel bags of button blankets, moccasins, vests, capes, aprons and paddles. Most of the items belonged to Ms Gladstone, and the thieves also took hers and her children’s personal luggage, leaving them with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Even her two-year-old son’s diapers were gone.
There were no witnesses, although it was the middle of the day.
“It sure is an expensive, heart-wrenching lesson to learn,” says Ms Parker.
Security at the mall say the thieves were likely professionals who don’t bother opening the bags before they steal them.
Ms Gladstone is thankful they left her cedar hats and her drum painted with a Haida design. These items were in the same tote as one of the stolen duffel bags, so it wasn’t specifically Haida regalia they were after.
Neither woman can understand why the thieves took the 10 paddles. Invaluable to the dancers, because they had a 17 year history of being passed down from previous dance troupes, the women suspect the thieves mistook the paddles for golf clubs.
“They must have been very heavy,” says Ms Gladstone.
She was one of 19 islanders who were in Vancouver to participate in performances at the Dancing on the Edge Festival at the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia.
Called the Percy Gladstone Memorial Dance (The Skidegate Project), the piece was the vision of Karen Jamieson, a well-known Vancouver choreographer. Ms Jamieson’s father was a UBC professor and knew Mr. Gladstone well.
Ms Jamieson performed her interpretation during the recollector song, one of four original songs composed by Verne Williams for the dance.
Although all of Ms Gladstone’s regalia was stolen, friends and family in Vancouver made sure she and her children had the appropriate clothes to wear for the performance.
“It went well. The first day, I didn’t have the heart, but everyone was so good to us,” she says of the four performances.
Jenny Cross, the leader of the children’s dance troupe, said the children had been preparing since last fall for the dance, which was first performed at the annual Raven Wolf clan dinner in Skidegate.
Even with the heart-breaking theft, the performance was a success.
“I can’t describe the feeling when you come in and see all the poles that used to be in Haida villages. Then to dance among them, that is where we gathered strength,” says Ms Cross.
For the finale on July 15, museum staff let the performers dance some very old pieces, including masks, a grease bowl, copper shields and an old paddle. Ms Cross said she could feel her ancestors’ presence.
She hopes the dance will one day be performed for the all communities on Haida Gwaii.
There has been no word from police about the regalia, but calls were made to Lower Mainland stores selling Haida art to ensure the thieves wouldn’t be able to sell the paddles locally.
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