Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Then next morning (August 3) we finish our Hazelton experience by taking a Ksan tour. Ksan is an Indian museum which features Gitksan (people of the river mist) and Wet’suwet’en Indian cultures. It sits on a lovely beach meadow just out of town where the Bulkley and Skeena rivers join.

The museum is made up of cedar longhouses. Our guide takes us first to the Frog House, where, by the warmth and light of a fire that burns in the middle of the floor (no chimney either, just a hole in the roof), he tells us about the past lifestyle of these people. All around are cedar canoes and carved tools and utensils. We learn about bentwood boxes - boxes made out of one piece of cedar, notched, steamed and bent into a square shape and used for many things, from transporting oolichan grease for trading to partitioning the longhouse. In the winter, up to 60 people actually live in a house the size we are in.

Next we go to the Wolf (or feast) House. Here we were told about the way disputes were settled and how the people celebrated.

Finally we enter into the Fireweed (or treasure) House. This building houses the costumes of the Ksan dancers - as well as the masks, robes, headdresses, aprons, leggings, rattles and drums. Many of these things were worn by the shaman or medicine man.

I think again of the book I am reading and how the missionaries sacrificed everything to tell these people how they could be free of the spirits the shaman encouraged. (The tone of our guide and the pamphlets he leaves with us, tell us the white man’s coming was not considered a good thing: "Good fortune placed the vast territories of our chiefs out of the mainstream of traders, officials and missionaries until well into the 19th Century....")


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