N. B. If you would like a history of Qqs (Eyes) Projects Society or the Heiltsuk people, we recommend that you visit our website,read any of the number of books written about Heiltsuk culture, or visit us in our territory to learn about our living traditions in person.
We would first like to introduce you to a very important group of young men. These six men are part of an incredible network of cultural leadership in the Heiltsuk community. They are part of a strong team that has brought our culture back to life, simply by reminding us that it is our life. They, along with their elders and mentors who have gone before us, have been instrumental in bringing great life our potlatch culture, in upholding our gvi’ilas (our traditional laws and practices), and in teaching the next generation to raise their eyes and their hearts – teaching them by example the honour and obligation of traditional leadership.
From this network, six young men agreed to step forward and help us plant a powerful seed in the harsh soil of New York City. These are their names – and since names carry stories of their own – these are their stories.
Rory Housty is a student of anthropology at Vancouver Island University. He has taken on an instrumental role in the potlatch house executing our dance program. His intimate knowledge of our sacred ceremonies brings great strength to our potlatch program. In the summers, he coordinates Qqs’ youth cultural camps. We uplift him and thank him for standing with us.
William Housty holds a degree in natural resource management, and in addition to his cultural work, oversees the research and monitoring arm of Qqs Projects Society. He brings great strength to our Heiltsuk culture by living it in his daily life. He holds great knowledge of our stories, names, and genealogy, and is a powerful voice at our drum log. We uplift him and thank him for standing with us.
Collin Reid is a powerful presence in our potlatch house, both at the drum log, and on the sacred floor as a dancer and attendant. With his knowledge and strength, he is a conduit through which our ancestors are able to participate in our potlatch ceremonies. We uplift him and thank him for standing with us.
Ian Reid is a master carver and artist and strong presence both at our drum log and on the sacred dance floor. He oversees the carving of the houseposts for the future bighouse in Bella Bella, and spends his summers teaching carving and traditional canoe pulling to Heiltsuk youth. We uplift him and thank him for standing with us.
Terry Reid is a gifted linguist and also a gifted teacher. He is engaged in important work that is bringing our Heiltsuk language back into the daily lives of our youth and community, revitalizing our connection to our mother tongue. We uplift him and thank him for standing with us.
Kevin Starr is a powerful singer and brings great strength to our drum log in the potlatch house. He sings with unmistakable authority and empowers his brothers at the drum log. His unwavering voice symbolizes the growing strength of our cultural leadership. We uplift him and thank him for standing with us.
We would like to acknowledge that these six young men do not stand alone. The network of cultural leadership in our nation expands to all fields, all ages, and more names than we can record here. In uplifting these men, we also intend to uplift the people and the nation they represent. Our strength is not individual strength. Our strength is the strength of a nation.
For a number of years, we at Qqs have been cultivating an important relationship with colleagues in New York at the American Museum of Natural History. While we stand a world apart, we have discovered many powerful links and common values that have certainly enriched us in our own work. We hope this relationship with our friends at the Museum has been reciprocal.
We have long held on to the idea of gathering, of sharing – of taking some of the individuals who are mouth, heart and hand to our culture on a critical and beautiful journey: a journey to New York, to greet and bless the Heiltsuk pieces held at the Museum. That idea, through the hard work and good faith of many people, is transforming into a reality. Tonight marks both a departure and an arrival. A beginning and an end. Tonight, the six boys to whom you were just introduced board a plane bound for New York, where they will soon hold in their hands many of the Heiltsuk artifacts currently held at the Museum.
Our goal is to show that these pieces are not relics. We want to uphold them as important symbols of a living culture with deep, immovable roots – to prove that they represent one part of a long continuum, and mark a point in an ongoing cycle that continues to guide our lives as Heiltsuk people. We want to breathe good energy into these pieces. We want to teach these pieces to remember the touch of Heiltsuk hands. We want to sing these treasures back to life.
Each of these objects has a memory, whether they are immense and iconic – the impossibly large canoe looming suspended in the hall – or small as a bead or a whistle. Each of these objects holds a story. We will sing to these treasures the story of our growth and transformation as a people – our living story. We believe they will whisper back something of the story they hold, an important physical and spiritual link to our roots and our ancestors.
Throughout the telling, you will meet some of our friends who have played an important role in the story of our journey. At the end, we will close by acknowledging all of them directly. Please hold in your mind a kind thought of the many people who have committed themselves to making this trip possible for our boys. In particular, we would like to thank Christopher Filardi and all his colleagues at the Museum for sponsoring the boys’ travel. Their kindness, keenness and incredible generosity are unsurpassed.
Tomorrow, after days of leaning into the wind and pacing the packed snow of Bella Bella, we’ll set our feet on the sidewalks of New York City. Though a week of inclement weather threatened to halt our journey from the motherland, we are able to commence our trip as we first intended. We thank the rugged coast of our home for reminding us that we can take nothing for granted. Your positive thoughts will bring good energy to us during our travels.
Thank you for joining us on our journey. Thank you for witnessing our story. Our next update will come from New York City!