Over a dozen men have recently began regular gatherings in Tla-o-qui-aht territory to provide guidance and share traditional practices. (Nora Martin photo)
Dwayne Martin and Chris Seitcher of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation initiated a men’s group four months ago. Chris and Dwayne saw the need to provide guidance and support to other men in the community. Some of the issues and concerns that arose were substance use, violence, lack of recreational activities, no hunting or trapping and the lack of spiritual or cultural ceremonies. Since the meetings began there are now about 16 men involved with the group.
The group has established a vision and mission statement, and are busy fundraising. Dwayne stated that they met with the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) Clayoquot Biosphere Trust and the West Coast Community Resources Society to seek financial support.
The possible funding will go towards honoraria, food, information, cultural ceremonies, recreational activities and travel.
The objectives of the group are to provide culturally safe programs, support, guidance, teaching men how to hunt or trap, carving, learning about self-respect and how to honor the women of the communities.
Dwayne and Chris have met with chief and council regarding a place for members to go. The were given the okay to utilize the basement of the old Tlucha Centre. The program will offer a place for relaxing, recreational activities, one on one counselling or family and group therapy.
Dwayne and Chris are quite excited and happy about what is transpiring in the community. They see the interest in the men actively engaged in meetings and cultural ceremonies. A few months ago a group of men came from Victoria, B.C. to do a sweat in Esowista, and afterwards had a sharing circle to talk about healing and becoming healthy, strong men.
About a month ago a group of three from North Dakota came to Esowista and did a ceremony on the beach, and while they were down there a couple mumulthnee (non-natives) were passing by and they invited them to join the ceremony. They brushed the man off with cedar, and the man had tears streaming down his face and told the group that he has been off the path for a long time. Said he now felt grounded.
The North Dakotans also did a Yuipi (tying of the soul) Ceremony, in Ty Histanis, and it was well attended by Tla-o-qui-aht members and non-natives of Tofino. After the ceremony was done some of the participants shared their appreciation and one elder advised the men “to have humility and never get egotistical, otherwise things will fall apart”.
There are plans to invite JR Fox and his two helpers of North Dakota back to the community sometime in the near future to do another three-day Yuipi Ceremony.
Men from Ahousaht, Hesquiaht, Hitacu and Toquaht are interested in getting together to share and plan on ways of working together.
Plans are underway for the group to visit Opitsaht on a regular basis, and they will provide transportation for the men to come to Ty Histanis and Esowista to join in the meetings and activities.
Conrad Goodbird of Standing Rock North Dakota is assisting Dwayne and the group with fund raising and developing a cultural exchange program with tribes of the USA.