I heard something very fascinating the other day. I was told back when the shíshálh people were under attack from northern foe, the palisades functioned as a last strong hold where the women and children would retreat and be protected. Trenches were built all around the fortification to add further detour to attack. Those wars are long gone; a part of our rich oral history and as such a good story to tell when in the company of our now Northern friends as we remind ourselves and slightly tease each other about those battles.
Today, shíshálh are now engaged in many activities, ceremonies and events, and intermarriages with Haida, Tsimsian, Kwak'wala and others. It is still awesome to see the variations in social customs between us southerners and the northerners. The North had the ooligan and we had the herring for one. Northern tribes, in my humble opinion, have influenced and aided in the awareness and reinstatement of the practice of matriarchal law and matrilineal lineage — social identification as historically the impacts of western influence has been highly patriarchal.
An obvious phenomenon, but something that needs to be identified and understood as we live in a community today where woman need to reconnect to and build our strengths in our roles are keepers of the culture and leaders of family and unity. When women work together the people are strong!
I have identified with my grandmothers’ lineage partly because my grandfather died before I was born.
He was from the ts’unay clan and was a great hunter. I love to hear stories about him. Learning more about both sides of your lineage brings balance and knowing your past can ground you in knowing how and why you hold certain values and why some viewpoints are so strong within.
Anthropologists refer to this as your subject-position location — a comprehensive investigation and review of how one lives and functions and communicates their world view through their class, gender, ethnicity, age, cultural customs, life experiences in relation to the historical influences and events.
I completed an academic exercise when I was 22 in university. I discovered a lot about myself and particularly why I am such a go for the greater good type of gal.
It is deeply rooted in my Coast Salish, shíshálh societal values that have been built on reciprocal living via the Potlatch. The Potlatch can only survive on highly organized productivity. Everybody worked. Contribution was king.
In the Potlatch, the clan accumulates and redistributes and there is a social structure and status component based on a form of hierarchy.
My father, on my other DNA strand, was a proud Blackfoot First Nation.
He was raised in a cultural practice with a strong sense of social equality and he also grew up in the 60’s social movements and was my teacher of story and a major influence. I knew everything about Che Guevara by the time I was 15.
Today it is easy for me to abide by our shíshálh customs and to respect elders. I recognize that as a shíshálh I am responsible for all children and for the wellness of our community. I also know that values are not right or wrong necessarily.
Values are values.
Editor's note: Candace Campo writes twice a month for Coast Reporter on the history and events of the Sechelt First Nation.
© Coast Reporter