Many of the activities at the Northern Region Games involved staying cool under the glare of the summer sun.
Dozens of Nuu-chah-nulth families flocked to Zeballos over the BC Day long weekend to take part in three days of sports, games, cultural activities, camping and feasting. The 2010 Northern Region Games were hosted this year by Nuchahtlaht.
Festivities started late Friday afternoon with the arrival of a canoe from Gold River. Pullers from Mowachaht/Muchalaht left their community nearly 12 hours earlier for the long paddle to Zeballos.
Northern Region ha’wiih and elders stood together to officially welcome the people and announce the start of the games. Nuchahtlaht Tyee Hawilth Walter Michael stood with his son Felix supported by Fred Adams of Ehattesaht and elders Rose Michael, Josephine George and Fidelia Haiyupis.
Special recognition was given to elder siblings Martin John, Florence John and Agnes John who were facing serious health problems and could not attend the games. According to Victoria Wells, Agnes suffered a serious heart attack and was fighting for her life.
Three camp chairs, marked with each elder John’s name, were placed near the stage at Zeballos Community Hall, not to be used by anyone. Wells said this was the host’s way of paying respect to the family.
“It’s to remind us that they’re here in spirit,” Wells explained.
The small Zeballos Community Hall was filled beyond capacity that evening for dinner provided by the host. When dinner was cleared away people volunteers handed out Northern Region 2010 T-shirts. In the meantime, a religious youth group of volunteers called Ekklesia International were introduced and treated the crowd to a performance of their inspirational songs. A young man started the show with a beautiful performance of Amazing Grace on saxophone.
The group from California is traveling to remote Vancouver Island villages to work with youth and get involved with community events. According to Pastor David Han of Tahsis, they were on the island for 10 days, providing fun activities for the children. Ekklesia International is a non-denominational Bible teaching church for all people.
Kyuquot elder Hilda Hansen sat quietly, enjoying the music and visiting with family members. She said she was staying nearby with a granddaughter, adding she was having a good time at the games. Those that couldn’t get motel rooms or stay with relatives camped near the river.
The rest of the evening was devoted to Mowachaht/Muchalaht performances, starting with an exciting new gift from musician Steve Howard. He was proud to unveil a new song he made for the people of the Northern Region.
Howard said he was approached two years before at Kyuquot by David Miller of Ehattesaht, who asked him to make a fun song the Northern Region could share.
“I don’t usually make fun songs,” he admitted, saying he began working on it a couple of months before.
Allison Howard, speaking on behalf of her husband Steve, who wasn’t feeling well that night, told the people the song is one that they all can use together when they celebrate at gatherings. She said it belonged to all of them and they could use it any time they needed a celebration song. Some of the song is sung by men alone and some by women alone with portions sung by everyone. Allison invited the people of the region to join the singing circle promising the song was an easy one to learn.
As the men and women sang together, their voices grew stronger and more spirited as they gained confidence as they learned the song; it seemed the men and women were trying to outdo each other. They let out a proud cheer when the song was finished.
“That song was made for all of you guys so don’t be afraid to use it. We are all one!” declared Steve Howard.
Saturday morning started with breakfast at Zeballos Community Hall followed by fun games at the ball field. Coordinator Audrey Smith gathered the volunteers and issued orders for keeping the people safe and secure at the games, paying special attention to providing information about keeping people cool and hydrated under the hot July sun.
She ran down the day’s events saying it was important to get parents involved. Her goal was to make the games a family event for people of all ages. But plans have a way of flying out the window. One of the first events, the water balloon toss, was to be played by elders and kids, but by the time the elders made it onto the field, the kids had already burst all the water balloons in the box, and had lots of fun in the process.
The water balloon toss started a water fight that was enjoyed by many kids and teens throughout the afternoon as young people chased each other with everything from water cannons and squirt guns to spray bottles. The smaller ones cooled off by splashing around in the wading pools that were set aside to help people deal with the summer heat.
The church youth group challenged the locals to a game of soccer during the cool late morning hours and ended up winning by one point.
More fun games geared toward younger children were played that day followed by something the youth were abuzz with excitement about, the Much Music dance event that was held at the hall later that night.
Sunday was set aside for track and field events for all ages and also for Nuu-chah-nulth language classes that were being offered to children and youth. The night ended with cultural activities.
The Games were funded by Nuchahtlaht with contributions from some of the Northern Region Nations and corporate sponsors, including Western Forest Products and Coast Mountain Fuels. Community members donated supplies and food while the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council provided some support workers.
According to Ben Jack the 2011 Northern Region Games will be held in Gold River with Mowachaht/Muchalaht hosting.
“We would have liked to have had it in Yuquot, but it costs too much to get everything up there,” he explained.
By Denise Titian