On March 27, our shíshálh preschool students, ages three and four, hosted their first potlatch on behalf of their school.
The day started with setting the table, a CasPier catered lunch, consistent with firm protocols as you always feed your guests before you conduct 'the work.' The work being that day an honouring ceremony. Shortly after the halibut and salmon lunch was thoroughly enjoyed, desserts were served to the honoured guests, leaders, elders and to the little hosts.
The floor speaker, myself, and floor manager, also a teacher, Jolene Joe, were hired by the shíshálh mém?íman students to conduct the work. We were blanketed, a.k.a., publically dressed in ceremonial garb, to officially indicate to our guests that we were going to start the work and with Joes strong background in longhouse protocols, the ceremony was seamless as I followed her direction.
Throughout the ceremony, teachable moments took place to share with our guests, new to the potlatch system, what was happening and why it was occurring. Our hosts, also new to the potlatch system, were giving the opportunity to learn more about the ceremony and its vital purpose to building and sustaining relationships.
The shíshálh mém?íman potlatch was an honouring ceremony to acknowledge, blanket, and gift the professionals here on the Sunshine Coast and from Capilano University who provide expertise and support in early childhood education. These professionals who work with our pre-school staff and students are Kelli Hansen, Chris Rowen, Sarah Doherty, Liz Kool and Deb Heidebrecht.
The Potlatch closed with xwamstut songs and dances.
There were a lot of smiles and tears of joy. The young hosts were exceptional, especially knowing that the young students enjoyed their cupcakes with chocolate icing and still managed to successfully host and accomplish sitting for nearly a two-hour event.
It was an exceptional day.
Editor's note: Candace Campo writes this column twice a month for Coast Reporter telling the stories and history of the Sechelt Nation.
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