Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Gwa'wina Dancers in Banff

This is our group at Banff. It was an amazing time for our group. A lot of work and a lot of growth. This project was lead by one of our own people Ms. Louanne Neil. It was one of the best summers in the history of our gang. Gilakas'la Louanne

Our Logo Gwa'wina (Gwah-wee-nah) "Raven"

This is a raven inside the sacred circle of life. Umel was the Chief over all of the Ancients and he was the one who gave our people the first winter dance the Tuxw'id "Warrior Dance". We named the group after our old people's Kwakwala Raven's Arts and Crafts Society who used to dance in the early 60's and 70's. It is also to remember Umel and where our dances first began.

Monday, June 16, 2008

About Us...

Gwa’wina Dancers Cultural Society History

The Gwa’wina Dancers formed in 1996 when the U’mista Cultural Centre asked William Wasden Jr. to form a small dance group to perform for the tourists that visited Alert Bay during the summers. In the beginning, the group was very small consisting of 10 dancers and singers. The group was mentored by the Elders of that time and it was very important for the group to dance for them on exclusive occasions; seeking guidance and approval for the ceremonies being presented to the public.

The original teachers of the group leaders were Chief Hiwaka̱lis Tom Willie also known as Mackenzie and his wife Ma̱lidi Elsie who were from the isolated village of Hega̱m’s “Hopetown”. The Elders moved to Alert Bay due to their wearing ages and the desire to teach the dieing tradition of singing. The Elders band manager at the time Bill Wasden Sr. who, brought the couple to Alert bay and set them up in a home for their retirement. Chief Hiwaka̱lis knew that the singing was dieing and offered to open up his home to teach anyone who would dedicate their time. Bill Wasden Sr. introduced his son William to the Elders and after his first lesson, a connection was made and extensive learning around singing began. The group grew and Chief Hiwaka̱lis taught for many years he undeniably saved the tradition of Kwakwaka’wakw singing.

People of all ages participated in the singing classes with Chief Hiwaka̱lis and his wife Ma̱lidi. In time, the couple passed on into the Spirit World and the torch was handed on to their students. William Wasden Jr. in turn, continued to teach children and teens at the T̕łisalagi’lakw School which is owned and operated by the ‘Namgis 1st Nation. William has also been commissioned by numerous tribes such as Campbell River and Rivers Inlet to research, teach and revive the songs of these nations. Dorothy “Pewi” Alfred also teaches occasionally at the Band School and also at the daycare program in the village. Dorothy collaborates with William and often teaches the woman appropriate songs and dances that are particular to the ladies.

The Gwa’wina Dancers are a society in terms of our culture. In ancient times, all aspects of our culture were handed down and mentorship was the method of transferring knowledge. The group gathers and practices regularly to learn, revive, and practice old and new compositions for Kwakwaka’wakw ceremonies. The group is a pathway especially for the youth, which leads them to participating in their sacred ceremonies.

In the past, the Gwa’wina Dancers have grown to numbers reaching 70 or more participants during dance performances. The numbers for members and people who support in other ways is even greater. The group has participated in many functions and traveled to various parts of Canada representing their ‘Namgis Nation. This past summer 2004 the group was hosted by the Banff Fine Arts Centre to participate in their summer performing arts program. The group has also participated in the Harrison Hot Springs Business Conference last winter 2003; to name a few.

In regards to singing, the group has recorded songs to assist in fund raising for their people. William Wasden Jr., Dorothy Alfred and Caroline Rufus recorded “One Nation One Voice” to assist in Kwak̕wala language preservation. The male members all participated in “I’tusto – Rising from the Ashes” to aid in funds to rebuild the ‘Namgis Big House that was arsoned on 1999. The Gwa’wina Dancers also created the CD “Laxwe’gila – Gaining Strength” to raise funds for the ‘Namgis Canoe Gathering in the summer of 2003.

Gwa’wina Dancers Cultural Society Philosophies

-The Gwa’wina Dancers Cultural Society creates an opportunity for learning Kwakwaka’wakw culture to all people who can trace their ancestry to the related tribes.

-The Gwa’wina Dancers Cultural Society believes in passing on the teachings and values of our Kwakwaka’wakw ancestors to build pride and esteem amongst our people.

-The Gwa’wina Dancers Cultural Society promotes drug and alcohol free events and encourages members to lead healthy traditional lifestyles.
-The Gwa’wina Dancers Cultural Society will continue to assist in the preservation of Kwakwaka’wakw culture for the future generations to come.