Almost twenty years ago, Gregory Charleson Jr. fell in love with a song that his father, Quuia Charleson, would sing to him. Love Your Creator was a Christian hymn that Quuia learned in residential school. At first, he sang it English.
Quuia said that his son would ask him to sing the song in their language, Hesquiaht. However, he could not speak the language fluently.
Gregory Jr. surprised his father, with the help of the late-elder Larry Paul, and a language teacher. They translated the prayer song from English into Nuu-chah-nulth.
“That puts a smile on my face because that's the best part of the story for me,” said Quuia.
All of them came together for hours continuing to piece the prayer song together, and as a group composed the Nuu-chah-nulth prayer song, Love Your Creator, explained Quuia.
Charleson's son prompted the beginning of a Nuu-chah-nulth prayer song that’s been sung for the last twenty years, reclaiming the song from English into the Nuu-chah-nulth language.
“There was… a great sense of relief, accomplishment, all of these things, because we did it together,” said Quuia.
They now sing the whole Prayer Song in Nuu-chah-nulth, Quuia rejoiced.
“At the end of the song, we’ll say that one part in English,” said Quuia. “Love you in the morning, love you in the noontime, love you when the sun goes down.”
The prayer song, said Quuia, is a welcoming song that can be used at various events and celebrations as a means of bringing in connection.
“This is a song for everybody. I always say that I don't own prayers. Prayers belong to everybody.” said Quuia.
He explained an experience with his late-grandmother, who witnessed him sing the prayer song at a basketball game. She had said that it was the ‘most beautiful song that [she's] heard’.
“That connection that I have to my son, that I have to my grandmother,” said Quuia.
“To me, that's what it's all about, is connecting people, you know, connecting families.”
“For me, the song is truly about family reconciliation,” said Quuia. “Reconciliation within a family, with myself, with my grandparents, with my late-mother, with my late-father. [It] was really important to recognize those hurts that lied in our family, but more importantly, start to address them.”
Charleson's prayer song story has been transcribed and published into a children's book through Wave Makers Press.
Don Bonner, Business Manager at Wave Maker Press, recognizes Quuia as a knowledge keeper and oral storyteller.
Over the years, Bonner had heard Quuia’s prayer song and story while they went on tribal journeys together.
The idea to publish Love Your Creator into a children's book was born when Bonner approached Quuia.
Christer Bonner, publisher at Wave Makers Press, said that the process included interviewing and speaking with Quuia, and then transcribing his story into the written word.
“To me, it was all part of trying to help him get…this story out,” said Don Bonner.
Quuia said that Love Your Creator opened the doors for familial reconciliation by sharing and connecting with his family.
“When I think about what that song means, it was about a connection into my past, the connection into now, and, you know, putting that connection into the future,” said Quuia.
Gregory Jr., who is now a new father, was the first to receive a copy of Love Your Creator.
Love Your Creator can be found at WaveMakerPress.com and Mobius Books in Port Alberni.
“Prayers in front,” said Quuia. “It's like saying safe travels…our prayers are ahead of us to whatever we're going to do, [and] wherever we're going to go.”