Benjamin Barrett gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM
Mon Apr 11 21:02:18 UTC 2005

Northwest Backroads is a television show featuring places in the NW region of the US.
Benjamin Barrett


First Nations - honoring their past 
03:01 PM PDT on Thursday, April 7, 2005 
Northwest Backroads 
Long before lodges and helicopters existed, the tribes of the First Nations were creating amazing communities and celebrating their own culture. Now, they preserve their history by honoring their past. 
“Our people have been here since the dawn of time,” said Ryan Nicolson. “If everybody followed our old ways, we’d live a lot better lives.” 
They are the First Nations people of the coastal regions of British Columbia. They call themselves First Nations because they are the original inhabitants of this land before any explorers or settlers arrived. 
As their land and, therefore, their way of life has been increasingly overrun by non-native people, the 16 tribes of the Kwakwaka’wakw first nations have watched their culture disappear. 
"When I was young I didn't know who I was,” he said. “Our people are grieving since we've lost our culture." 
Out of the smoke from the fires that carry the spirits of their ancestors, the young generations of the First Nations are igniting a revolution to rebuild their communities, their economy, and most of all their identity. 
At the center of all these things is the big house. 
Within the big house, the First Nations people have their most important gathering – the potlatch. 
It’s where all the stories of the community are passed along and the people come together as one. 
“When you come in our big house, you are treated the same or more so because you are a witness,” said Randy Bell. “You'll see all these natural things brought to life in our dances and song… It’s telling the story of who we are and you are witnessing a ceremony." 
A ceremony and a way of life that has been passed down for thousands of years by word of mouth. So keeping their language alive is key to saving all the old stories and the old ways. 
“The big task we have is the language. Amongst our people we have 250 fluent speakers and that will be cut in half unless we do something,” he continued. 
What they are doing is luring the young members of the tribe back home from the big cities – young men like Ryan Nicolson. 
"Being here it gives me more identity,” he said. “I've been able to learn how to smoke fish, use Indian medicines and learn the language." 
Randy Bell also decided to leave the city life behind and get back to his roots. He is proof that one person can make a huge difference. 
His project is a joint effort between the First Nations and non-tribal groups to enlighten all people of the world to the story of the Kwakwaka’wakw people. Randy wants to give all visitors a first-hand experience of a life and a culture that, at its core, hasn't changed for centuries. 
"This is our way or life,” said Randy. “We still live the way that was passed own to us." 
If Ryan and Randy are successful, then we will all travel together to see an incredible civilization revitalized and make sure that the story of the First Nations of British Columbia is not just a thing of the past, but also a hope for the future. 
For more information, call Randy Bell at 1-250-974-5091 or visit their Web site at http://www.umista.org/ 
The First Nations elders hope their children will learn and respect the old ways and that visitors too will leave with a new-found respect for their culture. 
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