Medicine for the soul: Nuu-chah-nulth couple hosts online potlatch

Ty-Histanis, BC

When Steven and Allison Howard saw a post on social media, a friend wistfully wishing someone would host an online potlatch, the couple never thought in a million years that it would be them to do it.

“We thought it was crazy and we giggled about it,” said Allison.

But after talking it over along with a little pressure from a friend, the couple decided to go ahead with a live-streaming potlatch.

Allison is a social development worker for Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation while Steven works in maintenance at Best Western Tin Wis Resort. The couple lives at Ty-Histanis, near Tofino.

“We are First Nation people. We love to hug, to be amongst family,” said Steven.

He went on to say that without the ability to gather, to be together because of the pandemic, people are starting to suffer. He said he believed that people are beginning to struggle again with alcohol and drugs because they miss being together.

“Our grandfathers used to say singing and dancing is medicine for us; music calms our minds,” said Steven.

Allison posted the event on Facebook called Oo’ii Healing Potlatch Online. The English word for Oo’ii is medicine. The post was made Nov. 25 and has over 600 attendees signed up to watch in just two days.

The event will start at 11 a.m. on Saturday Nov. 28.

Allison says she and her daughter will dance while Steve and their son drum.

“We will introduce ourselves and open the floor at noon.”

The potlatch is set up in 30-minute segments with people signing up to go live with performances. Only two time slots were left as of Friday evening.

“People from Mowachaht/Muchalaht, Ka:'yu:'k't'h'/Che:k'tles7et'h', Tseshaht, Ditidaht, Tla-o-qui-aht and Huu-ay-aht signed up,” said Allison, adding that they will each go live while the audience sits back and watches.

“At the end of it all Steven and I will close with one of our songs,” said Allison.

“It’s a small step, maybe it will lead to a movement,” added Steven.

The event can be seen at

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