The Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation will be holding an event, called naaʔuu, on various evenings throughout March. Naaʔuu, which is a Nuu-chah-nulth word, translates to “come together” and “feast,” which is exactly what the nation is inviting people to do.
Running in conjunction with the Pacific Rim Whale Festival, naaʔuu will be held at the Best Western Plus Tin Wis Resort in Tofino. The three-hour event will be held in a conference room made to look like a traditional longhouse.
Over the course of the event, guests will be served a traditional meal, accompanied by storytelling, dance, and song. Proceeds from the event will go towards the Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks and their aim to restoring and furthering the nation’s lands, language, and culture.
Artist Hjalmer Wenstob, who is co-producing naaʔuu, says he looks forward to showing guests who the Tla-o-qui-aht are, according to themselves.
“We are excited to welcome you into our house, to share a little bit of who we are, in our own words,” he said.
Wenstob also says that hosting the event affords them the ability to do something Indigenous peoples across Canada have not always been able to do.
“We have been reserved to share any of our culture publicly for fear of it being taken away,” he said.
When the Indian Act was first passed in 1876, it granted the government and others the ability to seize ceremonial objects and art, something which has seen push back to this day and calls to return those which were taken. Just last month, the Nuxalk nation from the area around Bella Coola had a totem pole returned from the Royal BC Museum. This after 110 years and multiple requests to have it returned.
Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation describes the event as a way to “to decolonize and reassert our ways in our communities and the [homeland],” and say that now is the time to share their wisdom, traditions, and teachings with the rest of the world.
The nation’s Natural Resources Manager Saya Masso says that naaʔuu is an opportunity to show people what makes the Tla-o-qui-aht nation unique.
“Our ambition is to share our culture,” he said. “By experiencing our culture, it will help visitors understand Tla-o-qui-aht’s perspective. To see our culture, to see our art and to understand our stories is how they can participate in our future.”
Masso also says that the traditions of the event go beyond the ones guests will see and extend to the planning process.
“To use any welcome songs or dances we have to seek permission, so of course we have done that,” he added.
Naaʔuu will run on various nights this month between March 9 and 31, with tickets being available through Eventbrite. There will also be an art show as part of the event, with local artists in attendance presenting their works for sale.
Tickets can be purchased at https://tribalparks.com/naauu/