A real-life account of a real-fun day.
For weeks I was making lists, checking the weather report, phoning friends and making more lists. Organizing events of this magnitude takes a lot of teamwork and organization. I was incredibly grateful for past CEO, friend and current Intern Curator Jason Alsop. I phoned him multiple times a day. With our opposing personalities these phone calls often ended in mini-arguments, apologies and jokes.
Another huge Haawa to Nika Collison, Associate Curator at the Haida Gwaii Museum, who helped organize the dance competitions and MC’ed.
In our Cultural Ambassador Shoshannah Greene’s words “teamwork makes the dream work.”
Unfortunately being the lead on an event of this magnitude meant my camera was left in the office for most of the day. Thankfully local photographers Jags Brown and Mary Helmer captured some incredible moments that they were willing to share!
After a lengthy night of preparations Friday night, Saturday morning rolled around. And guess what? SUNSHINE on Haida Gwaii. Ḵuuya ḵaag̱an g̱uuhlg̱al (ga), the sky is blue. Miracles do happen!
Side-note: the weather on our beautiful islands is unpredictable and magical.
That worry out of the way I proceeded to the Heritage Centre at 7:30 am. Upon arriving the stress was overwhelming and delightful. I was nervous but also ‘wasg̱ada or excited. I ran through our beautiful but BIG facility moving, arranging and cleaning. 9:30 came around and help arrived! Thank goodness.
I finished my morning exercise through the Centre just in time to see the Clan Parade round the corner and the Clans line up in front of their Totem Poles. The sound of the Haida anthem drifted into the Welcoming House as we set up chairs and prepared for the day’s events.
Some of the Brown family ready for the Clan Parade. Haawa Jags Brown for the photo.
Staff invited locals and visitors alike to Náagwii hla ḵaats’ii. (Come into the house/Come on in) to the Performance House for the morning welcoming. The Clan parade took less time than expected and we were ahead of schedule! The always entertaining Tyler Crosby stepped in to entertain the masses. To our guests it appeared to be a seamless transition. Trickery at its best.
My wonderful friend Graham, who was volun-told the night before that he would do the chief’s dance for us arrived a little bit late. Graham and I scurried around like ravens squabbling over fresh fish guts and he was ready in the nick of time. I put on my gorgeous blanket and/or invisibility cloak and acted graceful dropping eagle down into the chief’s headdress.
The rest of the day had something for everyone including: two canoe excursions, Haida language activities, Canoe Breaker, Slippery Stick and Daxinaay, a kids table, face-painting, zodiac rides with Haida Expeditions, a tarot card reader, food vendors galore, Greg William’s performed throughout the afternoon, leg wrestling, gambling sticks AND a staff performance.
Haawa to Haida Style Expeditions & Mary Helmer for the photo!
The staff performance was hilarious, entertaining, and I am so proud of the Haida Gwaii Museum and Haida Heritage Centre students and volunteers for putting together such an amazing show! I did manage to get some photos of the students performance- an adaptation of “Raven Steals the Light”:
I didn’t get to witness too much during the day besides letting Shoshannah beat me at leg wrestling. As depicted in this video filmed and produced by the Haida Media Project:
The evening was jam-packed with events. Hltaaxuulang Guud Ad K’aaju or “friends together singing” got started at 6 pm with a performance I heard was incredible!
What a beautiful photo of my friend Graham Richard. Taken by Mary Helmer.
During the beginning of the dance performance I had a mild emergency. We were missing a prize!! I bolted from room to room. Looking back I am incredibly thankful that my uniform for the day was a t-shirt and yoga pants. I ran from the Heritage Centre to the museum twice and finally found the prizes! Crisis averted. WHY IS THIS BUILDING SO HUGE? At-least I had worked off the fry-bread I had earlier that day.
I returned just in time to say my thank-you’s and do the 50/50 draw in my sweltering hot ultra-suede blanket. I am sure I looked like a sweaty nervous mess. But I am proud of myself for overcoming my public speaking fears.
The time we had all been waiting for had come. It was time for the Dance Competitions. The Performance House was packed! The girls competition’s got started first. Followed by the Women’s Competition and an extra round was added by our judges. Fallon Crosby took home bragging rights and a gorgeous hat weaved by Marlene Liddle. Our Haida ladies sure are beautiful!
Women’s competition winner Fallon Crosby wearing her prize. Haawa to Mary Helmer for the Photo.
The boys competition got started and there were quite a few boys that got out on the floor this year! It is so amazing to see kids embracing their culture. The winner of the boys competition was Trey Rorick. Trey is an amazing volunteer at the Haida Heritage Centre and we were so proud of him for taking home the title of boys competition champion. His passion and respect for his culture and his willingness to share his talent is inspiring. We cannot wait until he is old enough to work for us! After he was announced the winner Trey looked at me and smiled. I asked him if he wanted to do a Champion loop and he said yes and off he went.
Trey doing a winners loop. Photo by me 🙂
Lastly, the Men’s Competition and the rematch of all rematches.
Coach versus student. Boss versus employee. Friend versus friend.
Desi Collinson vs. Nate Vogstad. Desi Collinson is a a local legend for his dancing skills. I don’t want to inflate his ego but he is an incredible dancer. Last year while I was photographing the event I was so amazed at the athleticism, endurance, strength, and power that both Nate and Desi demonstrated. After a certain point you can see Desi change he looks up at the ceiling, sweat lining his face and soaking his hair. He pushes through and looks like he is channeling some sort of supernatural power. My favourite thing about Nathan’s dancing is his head movements. He does a slight flick that is very much a raven/eagle move I am not even sure if he knows he does it. Truly amazing Haida dancers become the being they are dancing and I think that both Nate and Desi are incredible dancers.
Desi & Nate facing off. Haawa to Jags Brown for the photo.
I felt so bad for the dancers this year as the Performance House was so hot! Everyone was sweating and once again during the dance competitions I took another jog. I ran into the far side of our museum to get water for the elders who were sitting in the Performance House suffering.
Despite Nathan’s training, Desi won this year for the 5th time in a row. But it was another incredible battle and I really hope to see them compete for years to come.
The champ-congrats Desi. Haawa Jags Brown for the photo.
Then the night came to an end and as people slowly cleared out we started cleaning up.
I could not believe it was over.
Until next year.
Written by: Michaela McGuire. Project officer at GNC & HHC. Photographer and new-ish Skidegate resident.