Honouring the past in the present tense

  • Jun. 7, 2015 8:00 a.m.

By Evelyn von AlmassyHaida Gwaii ObserverTwo films that made their debut recently at the Toronto Hot Docs Festival, Hadwin’s Judgement and Haida Gwaii: On The Edge of The World had a local Haida man, Ralph Stocker, featured in both of the films. Hadwin’s Judgement was recently shown here, and The Edge of the World is coming soon to Haida Gwaii. Mr. Stocker has not let this new-found fame go to his head, as he had been up with the early tides to go clam digging on North Beach during the last few days. He had been recently living and studying in Terrace for his class 1 Driver’s license. Clam digging was also his focus in the The Edge of the World film. The director, Charles Wilkinson, has a German wife with whom Archie Sr. would speak in her native tongue. Before long he of course told her of his quick clam-digging son.In the film, Ralph tells the story of when he led a blockade in Masset Inlet in a canoe against the Haida Brave barge (which still picks up logs on Haida Gwaii today). He drove through Masset and found 8 paddlers to join him in the canoe; and there were 50 witnesses from shore.” Once in the canoe, Mr. Stocker radioed the barge “to hold their position”; as he was in a non-motorized craft, he had the right of way. He “held the position for a couple of hours.” Around the same time, Greenpeace took action on Haida Gwaii against MacMillan Bloedel, as members chained themselves to the Haida Brave barge; the loggers removed the Greenpeace activists by cutting through the chains with chain saws. When [South] “Moresby happened, re-awakenings happened,” Ralph told the Observer. “We were reminded of our responsibilities to the land, sea and air – to respect our ancestors and ourselves.” When asked how it was to see himself in Hadwin’s Judgement Ralph recalls his nervousness.”Because of all the shooting retakes, I was nervous to see what the producers had put on the big screen. I was happy to see myself, speaking from the perspective of 1995 and remembering again my hereditary responsibilities to speak for the land and all the people on this earth. We are all indigenous; we are all from somewhere and we all have that same hereditary responsibilities to this earth.” He recalls Sasha Snow, the writer and director of Hadwin’s Judgement, ask questions from a place of good heart and mind, but it wasn’t until the film’s release that Ralph understood exactly what path the narrative would follow.”He wouldn’t talk to me about the movie in any detail, I didn’t know what else was going on in the movie; he just asked me questions,” Ralph said. Ralph was born on March 4, 1967 at the QCI Hospital and raised in Port Clements. His mother is Haida of the Yak’u’laanaas clan, (Ralph is also of the Stastas clan); his father Archie Stocker Sr. is from Germany, who came to Haida Gwaii in 1961. Alfred Davidson from Old Masset, (Haida name Tok) passed the area of Waterfall Creek to his grandfather. After his death, his Naanii, Adelia Adams passed the ownership and responsibilities of the traditional use of the area/trapline to him and his brothers Karl and Archie.The two recent films are not the first time directors have called upon Ralph to appear in film. His first was a CBC film co-produced by Bill Reid. In I Called Her Lootas (meaning wave-eater), he was one of 10 paddlers that made it all the way from Vancouver to Haida Gwaii in Mr. Reid’s hand-carved 15.2-metre ocean-going cedar war canoe. Just 10 of the 42 paddlers made it all the way up the 1,500 kilometre journey on the north west coast. He happened to hear other Haidas talking about this paddling trip; and he went to see if he could join. “Tim Boyko made the paddle that I used, and I still have.” When asked if he thought the films helped Haida Gwaii and its people, Ralph thoughtfully said Hadwin’s Judgement is a reminder of what happened, and of the issues that led up to it. “The things that Grant Hadwin had to say, are still true to this day,” Ralph said. He would later be the person to convince the Council of the Haida Nation to create a Forestry Committee, and to use best forestry practises.At both showings of Hadwin’s Judgment on Haida Gwaii, Mr. Stocker asked how many people in the audience were “indigenous.” While only a couple of people put up their hands, he went on to say that “Everyone is from somewhere and we are all indigenous. We are all recovering from the Roman Catholic Church, and the state of being colonized.”

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