Having travelled to 49 of the 50 states in North America, I have realised the amazing diversity amongst its people. In fact the Americas (North and South) are home to over 1000 indigenous languages. And what amazing musical sounds and styles from the second line drumming of New Orleans, Inuit throat singing known as katajjaq from Quebec to Brazillian samba and Guyana calypso. What stands out artistically amongst the indigenous people of these lands is their visual arts – their pottery, paintings, jewellery, weavings, basketry, beadwork, carvings and sculptures.
It was wonderful to be back in the beautiful wilderness of northern BC. Here’s a clip on the sad history of residential schools in Canada and the restoration of drum and language happening today, using footage from last years music festival with the Tahltan Nation.
It was an honour to meet Chief Andy Carvill and celebrate with the Tagish First Nation in Carcross, Yukon, as they opened a new learning center and cultural building. A highlight was the Dakhká Khwáan Drum and Dance group.
It was so good to be back with Uncle Willie and Auntie Gracie in Tahltan country (northern BC). This was the second year that we had been invited to take part in their music festival, this time primarily so we could show them the video footage and recordings we had made from the previous year, although I did get a chance to ‘bash some skins’ with a few bands! They were so moved at a private viewing that they decided to show the film on one of the evenings of the festival.
It is said that history books are written by those who win wars! This short video tells the story of the pilgrims from a Wampanoag perspective. Ships had been trading with Native Americans for fish, furs and people for 100 years before the pilgrims arrived to set up camp. Squanto, a Wampanoag, amongst many others was kidnapped and taken into slavery 6 years before the pilgrims arrived. He was taken to Spain and then became an interpreter on an English boat, eventually escaping back to his people – sadly, returning to his people, he found his village Patuxet, and everyone he knew, dead, from a plague and he ended up becoming a type of servant with another tribe. When the pilgrims arrived he became their interpreter and guide, and helped negotiate a treaty with the most powerful local Native American confederation, a peace that lasted more than 50 years.
After a morning of recording in San Diego we went to my favourite Mexican restaurant to find a wonderful group of six girls and one guy playing wonderful mariachi music. The group is called Mariachi Divinas worth checking out if you are in the area.
Whilst on the island of Kaua’i, a friend Kaplan Bunce invited me to the Powwow in Paradise, a cultural event and a traditional Native American powwow for the community . Many tribes and Pacific nations were represented and much dancing and drumming – this exert is the amazing hoop dancing.
We left the Alaskan Highway just south of Toc and travel along a 25-mile dirt road that snakes its way into the bush. We are heading to the Tetlin community, home for 120 Athabaskan people.
So where is Tahltan country, I hear you ask? Its in a remote and beautiful part of northern BC with the north/western border running parallel to the Alaskan/Canadian border, including part of Yukon Territory. The south/eastern border includes the upper Nass tributaries and western half of the Stikine plateau, including the sacred headwaters of the Stikine, Nass and Skeena rivers.
We traveled up from Vancouver, a team representing many different nations, a trailer full of supplies and gifts of food and utilities for the First Nations communities we were going to meet In a car convoy, it took over 18 hours to get to our first stop – Stikine Canyon about 30 mins from Dease Lake BC!