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Seven Journeys in Haida Gwaii Blog: Day 2

May 10, 2019

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Photo: Oyoyochik student leaders explore culture and relantionships through food

As part of the Oyoyocik Student Leadership Group's trip to Haida Gwaii, we are thrilled to share daily dispatches about their experiences during the trip.


Tieller | Grade 10 | Windsor Park Collegiate

For our second day in Haida Gwaii our nerves have gone away, and we have made connections with each other that wouldn't have been possible without all the support the teachers and school board has given. 

Today, we have really bonded over things that lots of people can't even say they have seen in their life. One of the things that bonded us as a group the most, was when we were going to go see a totem pole carving being made. While trying to find the place we ended up pulling over both cars right by the water to talk to each other about what was going on and what the plan was. Then when out of nowhere, we were all in different cars, we all just hear "WHALES!" 

All I can say is that you would never be able to say that you've seen a group of students run faster. For someone like myself that has never seen a whale in my life, it was like an experience no words would be able to describe perfectly. You will never truly know how beautiful and majestic these whales are until you see them with your own eyes. 

The other girls and I walked over to a different spot to get a closer look. For about 20 minutes we had been watching and taking in the amazing view when all these sea lions swam below us. When we found out there was two of them my heart leaped. I already felt lucky enough to be able to see one, but two was incredible. I feel so lucky and thankful for the amazing opportunity given to me to learn and experience all the amazing things Haida Gwaii has to offer. This trip has only begun, and I already don't want to leave. To top the whole day off we were sitting at the camp fire getting ready to leave when we all heard a sound. We ran to see what the sound was and low and behold it was another whale! Call it what you want, but I believe that we were meant to see it to make a great day even better. 

 

Brianna Jonnie | Grade 12 | Collège Jeanne-Sauvé  

I didn't know what to expect from this trip. 

Sure, I knew that we were coming out here to the beautiful island of Haida Gwaii, home of the traditional Haida peoples for land-based learning, but what did that mean? 

As we made our way down to the house of Roberta Olsen, also known as chef Keenawaii, I became nervous. Unfortunately, due to family problems, I was never able to grow up connected to my culture, which meant that when I was told about our plan to partake in a traditional feast, I was unsure about how to feel. 

Was I worried about acting wrong and feeling out of place? Or was I excited about the fact that this was my opportunity to feel connected with who I am at heart? Once I stepped inside that house, all my worries began to fade. I felt at home; inside the house of a woman I had never met. We ate amazing traditional food that she had prepared for us which included, smoked salmon, dried seaweed and fish eggs, baked potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots and peas as well as halibut soup topped with nettle and wild mint tea. Around Roberta's table, we became connected over laughter, tears, and blueberry pie. We became a family of sorts. 

To make our evening that more memorable, Roberta gave us the chance to participate in a traditional ceremony, to honour and remember those who came before us as well as those who left us too soon. 

We stood by the fire in a circle connected by our hands as we began to reflect. I had the opportunity to honour my late grandmother who passed away many years ago, I realized that I never had the chance to grieve, or to honour her because of the lack of connection I had with that side of my family. While I had never thought about this before today, I can say that after being able to partake in this ceremony, I feel as if a weight has been lifted off my chest that I never even knew was there to begin with. Without this trip, I would have never been able to finally feel that lasting connection with my culture, my grandmother, and my new found family. I will cherish these memories forever because even though it is only the second day, these past 48 hours have impacted me more than anything I have ever experienced in the past 17 years of my life, and I am incredibly thankful for that. 


Cheyenne | Grade 12 | Glenlawn Collegiate &

Mia | Grade 11 |  Dakota Collegiate

For our second day we went to Gidgalang Kuuyas Naay Secondary School in Queen Charlotte to see how their school integrates the Haida Gwaii culture. 

When we first arrived, the principle welcomed us into the school by announcing our arrival to all the students. He took us on a tour of the school and we got to see the different classrooms and the students. 

The principle introduced himself by Bradley, and we were surprised how close their community is and how welcoming they are. We were pleased to see the amount of Haida art they had displayed throughout the school. 

While we were taking the tour, we went into their Haida Gwaii language class and the teacher welcomed us in. She told us to sit amongst the students and gave us the worksheet they were working on. 

The students were practicing the language and she told us to join in and practice a few words and sentences. We were all amazed that they had a language class and many of the students have been learning since preschool and many of them wish to carry on the language. 

After learning a few words, we offered the teacher a Métis sash to thank her for being so welcoming and letting us into seeing how they're learning the language. Later on, after we were done in the classroom, we went to introduce ourselves to the Indigenous Co-Ordinator Robert. We gave him a Metis sash and a fishing lure to thank him for talking to us and letting us know what he does in the school so, he gave us some red ochre in exchange. 

It was an amazing experience to learn more about their culture, language and way of life. We will take a piece of the knowledge we learned while leaving them a piece of ours.

 
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Louis Riel School Division shared a photo.

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