How’aa feast a night to remember

  • Mar. 22, 2004 8:00 a.m.

—Haida thank Port, Masset for support at Supreme Court

—Protocol agreement signed by all three

—-The How’aa feast in Port Clements last Friday night (March 19) was an historic event, the first time the Haida had hosted a feast in a non-Haida community on the islands, Jeff King writes. And they picked the logging community of Port, with which they’ve had differences in the past, because of its support in the TFL 39 case now at the Supreme Court of Canada, and because Port and Masset are -so far- the only communities to have signed the protocol agreement, under discussion for the last two years.
The mood at the feast, which virtually filled the 300-plus seat school gymnasium, was one of inclusion and working together. There were speeches, there was drumming, and there was dancing, including a money dance which raised over $1,600 to help Port with its expenses going to Ottawa this week to intervene in the Haida’s legal case at the supreme court. And there was food, lots of food, the traditional Haida hospitality ensuring, as usual, not only that no one went home hungry, but that they had extra food to take home if they wanted.
It was a night to remember, as Haida and loggers sought and succeeded to put the past behind them, and to witness the signing of the protocol agreement between the Council of the Haida Nation and the villages Port and Masset, a living document that shows the way to future cooperation. (Full text version of this agreement is on this website. See first page).
The following are brief versions of what the major speakers had to say.

Chief Iljuuwaas-Reynold Russ
Tonight we are here at a historic happening.
Never in my life have I ever witnessed something like this.
It is an honour to be part of it.
In our dreams we never thought (the Council of the Haida Nation) would come to what it is today.
I want to thank the people of Port Clements for walking side by side with the Haida Nation.
We are experiencing something much larger than we have ever experienced in our life
We have had our differences, our problems. But today all that is put aside. It is wonderful to see. We are heading in a direction that we have never been in our life. We are on our way to Ottawa. Hopefully, things will go our way at the Supreme Court.
It is wonderful to see all of you. You are not walking ahead of us. You are not walking behind us. You are walking along with us.
It is an experience I will live for the rest of my life. How’aa. Thank you.

Gid Kun-John Williams
I also wish to thank you for being here to see something that has not been seen on the islands.
The people of these two communities have signified their intention to band with the Haida to straighten out over three hundred years of injustice. It is good to see. It is good to experience.
It is good to see people sitting together instead of apart. It is good to see you talking together.
It is good to know that more and more the people of these islands are beginning to absorb the spirit of Haida Gwaii. How’aa. You are doing a good job.

Chief Thasi-Ken Edgars
It is really amazing to see us moving in this direction. It is really nice to be here, to go to things together.
I hope we can carry on this tradition. And maybe the next time we have a do here, we can teach the people here how to Haida dance.

Mayor of Port Clements-Dale Lore
I am supremely confident of a couple of things. The reason we support the Haida are twofold. It’s the moral high ground. It is the right thing to do. And it is also the selfish thing to do.
If we want to prosper and we don’t learn to speak with one voice, it makes it so that nobody from the outside can play the divide and conquer game.
If we speak with one voice each successive year will get better. That’s what they call progress. We will get there.

Following the above speeches, the protocol agreement was signed at a table set up in the middle of the gymnasium floor, after which more speeches.

Mayor of Masset-Barry Pages
This agreement will further enhance past successes. We look forward to working with the Council of the Haida Nation and Port Clements. Together we can achieve common goals for every resident of Haida Gwaii.

Port councillor-Gerry Johnson
I couldn’t get a better opportunity to thank the Haida. I have learned a lot in these past thirty years. (I thought to myself after Lyell Island) these guys have the right idea-you are either part of the solution or part of the problem.
I stand before you tonight being proud of my little community. I know that if we sit together, I know there are a bunch of other things we can do if we work together.

Council of the Haida Nation president Guujaaw
The pundits said ‘be careful, the Haida will use this politically. And you are damned right, the Haida will use this politically.

Council of the Haida Nation vice-president Arnie Bellis
It means a lot to have everyone sitting in the same room. It is never an easy road if you want something good. We owe our existence to Haida Gwaii and it is generally good manners to leave something the way you found it. Us as Haidas, we owe our existence to 650 Haidas left over after the smallpox.
The protocol agreement to me only makes common sense. You need to speak to your neighbours all the time. That is the fundamental underlining of the protocol agreement.
That’s where the future is. If you want to fight about the past, then you will live the past. How’aa.

Then it was time for the money dance, where all who wanted to danced and threw money down on a blanket. A total of just over $1600 was raised, and given to the Village of Port Clements to help with its expenses for its representatives going to the Supreme Court in Ottawa this week. Then again, more speeches.

Chief Sgaan 7wi7wanns-Allan Wilson
A How’aa feast in Port Clements. Wow. Pretty exciting.
It is starting here today. You are witnessing it.
(During the signing) there was more than just three there. There was all of you there, and all the Haida Nation behind Guujaaw.
They had better take notice because we have given them notice. Haida Gwaii grows stronger every day. That’s the only way we are going to do it.
The Haida constitution might not be perfect but we have lived it. The signing of this protocol tonight is just another step. We’ll let the States have the moon. We’ll take Haida Gwaii.

Skidegate Band councillor-Colin Richardson
I’d like to acknowledge the significance of what has happened here tonight. How’aa Guujaaw for your forethought and wisdom.
We have come through some difficult times. To those communities who haven’t felt comfortable sitting with us, to BC and Canada, we are going to leave you behind as we forge ahead. The more we work together the better our future.
It is good to see us working together and going in a direction that is going to benefit all of us.
We don’t like what is going on in our homeland. We are very powerful in this room. We are going to drive the ship from here on in.

CHN president Guujaaw
There has been a lot of working together over the years. It is not just this day. If we did not have this rascal (Dale Lore) we might not have got to this point.
The work ahead, the things we’ve got to do together. This is really setting up the work that has to be done.
You would think the province and the federal government would encourage us and help us. And yet they are hiding away. It’s crazy but we will straighten them out.
I am really pleased with what has happened here. Over the next few years there are a lot of things that have to be done. And I look forward to it.

The evening, an emotional one for many, wrapped up with tears in more than one persons’ eyes and one pundit remarking ‘you have seen the future. Not all of it. Just a little slice. But you have seen the future.”
A How’aa feast in Port Clements. Wow!

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