There is greater recognition of Haida culture amongst members
of the Haida Nation now, than when I was a child. Our culture has always been alive, but it was suppressed and mostly practiced “underground” in the early 1900s through to the late 1960s. The cultural revival we have gone through is thanks to the work of Robert, Reg and Guujaaw among others. Forty years ago they built upon the knowledge of their parents, grandparents and elders. Robert’s pole raising in 1969 (the first pole raising in over 100 years in Haida Gwaii) helped to open the doors for sharing songs, dances and culture. I’ll never forget a potlatch we performed at a few years ago, and Robert invited the audience to join in singing. Practically the entire hall of about 600 people joined — it was so exciting to hear the change.
Haida music, and music from the northwest coast, is relatively unknown in Canada — which is very different from the art which is very well known. When most people think of aboriginal music, they think of the songs from powwows, which is a very different musical genre. I hope that by sharing the songs at the national level (which was done at the CAMA Awards) that others come to appreciate Haida music, and also Haida culture. I see the CAMA Award as a positive sign that Haida musical traditions have received recognition in Canada”.
The responsibilities of aboriginal artists, storytellers or singers are:
• To keep the knowledge alive, and if need be, to change the ceremonies or bring new creations into the world so that the knowledge remains relevant to people. To remain static denies the creativity and genius that flows from the Creator.
• Knowledge is kept alive by sharing it, and in doing so, creating relationships with others who witness that knowledge. So, when I sing songs or tell stories, the listener becomes part of a relationship with the knowledge — but the listener does not acquire rights to the words, stories, songs, or ceremonies — if anything they acquire responsibilities.
JACK LITRELL PHOTO