Potlatches the Nuxalk Way
Strengthening Our Nuxalkmc Spirit
The Nuxalkmc and House of Smayusta Chiefs are still holding
potlatches the Nuxalk way. Potlatch is the name given to our traditional
system of government and ceremonies. Within our Potlatch government, no Hereditary
Chief has given his or her territory or land to any foreign (Canada or British
In the Nuxalk Nation the social,
religious, political, and economic aspects of life are interwoven, they
are not considered as distinct subjects. Each Nuxalk's birthright is contained
in a structure, which dictates their position under each of these subjects.
This structure is unique to the Nuxalk Nation and is considered law. The
foundation for the laws comes from the Smayustas. The Smayustas are the
origin stories of the Nuxalk Nation. These stories are the direct link
to the Creator, and in turn it is their duty as a citizen to uphold the laws.
1997 Memorial Potlatch for Grannie Felicity. From left in front: Head Chief Nuximlayc (Lawrence Pootlass), Cecil Moody, Harry Schooner (holding the headdress he carved), and Philip Hans (seated). Nuximlayc will place the headdress on the head of Philip Hans. Chief Qwatsinas and Skyakw (Karen Anderson) are standing behind.
Above: 19th Century Nuxalk Raven Potlatch dish,
"My parents were told not to speak their language or to practice the dances, the songs. Now that has got to be stripped away. Our People are growing up to realize we mean more to this Earth than just a welfare case. We have a history and a language, and nobody else has this particular history and language but us. We're not like the watered down citizenship of white Canadians. We don't say, 'I got a hundred spring salmon,' and the old lady sitting there is saying, 'I can't fish.' We have to work together. We have to fish for the ones who can't. Relations are getting better. Racial prejudice begins with saying: 'I'm better than this other person.' We're not going to use uncertain standards comparing us with somebody else. . . . I realize now that a seagull is a seagull. It has its own certain colour, its own certain food, its own certain ways. And it's the same for us. We're going to just be ourselves. That's all." Qwatsinas in 'Wisdom of the Elders' by Ruth Kirk, 1986.
The Snuxyaltwa Memorial Potlatch was held in Bella Coola
on 11 and 12 November 2011, hosted by the Snow Family.