Sunday, November 13, 2011

Mentors and Moving


These last few days have been filled with more good-byes.  Friday I traveled up to Qualicum Beach to see a very important person in my life, Kwaxsistalla, a Kwakwaka’wakw Clan Chief, who has taught me an extraordinary amount about the traditional food ways of his clan.  Nancy introduced me to Kwaxsistalla almost exactly four years ago and I can still hear him singing the traditional Soapberry (Shepherdia canadensis) whipping song that he sang for us that evening, and I vividly remember him teaching us about his favorite way to eat frost softened Crabapples (Malus fusca).  My visit Friday was different than my countless other visits where my goal was to apprentice with Kwaxsistalla and trade my labor for his traditionally-styled education which comprised of on-the-land instruction and storytelling.  Today, my visit was for the purpose of telling him that I was moving.  It wasn’t exactly a goodbye, although I am moving away, and he is of a venerable age.  I still plan on seeing him again.  I mostly wanted to use the occasion to tell him how much he means to me and let him know how important he has been to my understanding of indigenous foods.  I have been lucky enough to participate in the harvesting and preservation of  food, not as part of some eccentric counter-cultural desire, but as part of a timeless tradition of food sovereignty.  More important than these experiences, were the life lessons that he taught me, such as the meaning of family, and the importance of place; he showed me generosity, he inspired humility, and he gave me the courage to speak what was in my heart.

My other great mentor over these past four years has been my Master’s Supervisor, Nancy Turner.  On Wednesday she took me out for dinner and I did my best to impart to her my feelings of gratitude for her wonderful example, inspirational character, and overwhelming generosity.  Over the years she has even showed me some of her favorite berry patches and mushroom-picking grounds.

Yesterday we loaded up the balance of our belongings (my dad took all of our books earlier) and narrowly caught the ferry to the mainland.  We arrived in Bellingham in the middle of a rainstorm, but with the ferry and border crossings behind us, the worst part of the move is over.  We are watching a friend’s dog for the next few weeks while we look for a place to live- hopefully someplace with a big pantry.
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