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Tsimshian Historic Cultural Event taking on more Traditional Significance



August 08, 2006

Metlakatla, Alaska - A Tsimshian tribal historical event is being planned for August 2007 to celebrate the 120th Anniversary of the Tsimshian's move to Metlakatla in 1887. Started by Eli Milton, the planned event started out as a Name Giving Feast for the individual who will be named a Chief for Metlakatla, Alaska.

According to Terrance H. Booth, Sr., this type of event in and of itself has never happened for the Tsimshian people of Metlakatla, Alaska. He said in a news release the plans have brought attention to the Tsimshian Hereditary Chiefs of the entire Tsimshian Nation and they will be in attendance at this Tsimshian Name Giving Feast planned for August 2-3, 2007 in Metlakatla.

jpg Metlakatla, Alaska 1907

Metlakatla, Alaska 1907
Photographer: Harriet Elizabeth Hunt
Donor: Forest J. Hunt, Tongass Historical Society
Photograph courtesy Ketchikan Museums

A great deal of work and planning goes into bringing a historical event of this magnitude together. Booth said at this Feast in 2007, 16 Tsimshian Canoes will be given to the Hereditary Chiefs of the Tsimshian Nation. Holding this historic Tsimshian Cultural Event will require 17 Tsimshian Canoes to be carved and built in two locations said Booth. Booth said permission has already been implemented to the Tulilap Tribal Council to utilize a building on that tribal reservation located in Marysville, Washington just north of Seattle. Booth said the canoe building will start there because the Tsimshian Artists and Carvers are at their summer's work of salmon fishing.

Booth said, "It takes time to do 17 Tsimshian Canoes and the Tsimshian Artists and Carvers are awaiting start up time and readily available to do these 17 Tsimshian Canoes. It may take for a year's work and effort to complete these 17 Tsimshian Canoes either double or triple shifts to have them completed for the Tsimshian Historic Cultural Event 2007." He said it was the hope that there would be one Tsimshian Canoe in the "Paddle to Muckleshoot" but the project got delayed and new timelines had to be established. The "Paddle to Muckleshoot" happened at the end of July 2006.

Booth said Eli Milton has been working on this Tsimshian Canoe Project for three years to get it going. the Tsimshian Canoe Project was started to commemorate the 120th Anniversary of the Tsimshian move from British Columbia to Metlakatla, Alaska. The 120 Anniversary will be on August 07, 2007.

Booth's family of Metlakatla decided to add two twin Commemorative Totem Poles one to be placed in Metlakatla, BC and the other to be placed in Metlakatla, Alaska. He said, "Following Tsimshian Protocol Hereditary Chief Clarence Nelson will be approached to announce and gain permission to place and raise the Commemorative Totem Pole in Metlakatla, BC. A formal letter was submitted to Mayor Victor Wellington of Metlakatla, Alaska to place the twin pole there in Metlakatla, Alaska." The two twin totem poles will be gifted and used to honor this Tsimshian Historic Cultural Event and the crossing to Metlakatla, Alaska from Metlakatla, British Columbia said Booth. "To honor those who participated with this move and to permanently have remembrance - for some it was with great difficulty and for others a blessing." This in of itself brought more cultural significance to the Tsimshian Historic Cultural Event 2007. Tsimshian Protocol has to be implemented to follow the Traditional Ways of the Tsimshian said Terrance H. Booth, Sr.

Another significant occurrence that has happened said Booth is that a Tsimshian Hereditary Chief has decided to escort the 17 Tsimshian Canoes over to Metlakatla, Alaska. His purpose is to re-unite with his family who moved over from Brithish Columbia to Alaska. This Tsimshian Hereditary Chief has traced many Tsimshian names prior to their locating to Metlakatla, BC from the Tsimshian Domain to Metlakatla, Alaska. Booth said this Tsimshian Hereditary Chief will bring his documentation of his findings to Metlakatla, Alaska. The Tsimshian Hereditary Chief himself and his family will construct 4 Tsimshian Canoes. This needs to be shared with the entire Tsimshian Nation said Booth.

Booth said, "Of Cultural importance is another event - the Haida Nation is returning a Tsimshian Song to the Tsimshian of Metlakatla, Alaska. This Tsimshian Song was given to the Haida 100 years ago. They will be escorting the 21 Tsimshian Canoes to Metlakatla, Alaska to bring the song to Tsimshian of Metlakatla, Alaska."

"With these added Cultural features it brings more cultural meaning and tribal importance to the Tsimshian Historic Event 2007 by having living Tsimshian History taking place and having an re-enactment of their move marking 120th Anniversary of this move is worth documenting and recorded to share with the entire Tsimshian Nation." said Booth. He said, "Tsimshian Protocol is being implemented to adhere to the Traditions, keep balance within the communities and not to cause any disturbances to disrupt the life of their communities."

Both said the Tsimshian Artists and Carvers have been put into place. Master Artist Jack Hudson has offered to do the Tsimshian Canoe Paddles. Weaver Mary Teri Kennedy ( Tsimshian/Haida ) has offered to do red cedar bark canoe mats. Artists and Carvers are from Washington State, British Columbia and Alaska.

The logs are being selected and portion of the logs are enroute to the Tulilap Tribe Reservation to start five Tsimshian canoes in Marysville, Washington. Booth said they are targeting late summer or early fall to get going with the Tsimshian Canoes and on the Tulilap Tribe Reservation a building has been selected to do at least five Tsimshian Canoes there.

A building in Prince Rupert, British Columbia will be selected to complete the 17 Tsimshian Canoes. Immediate needs are for payment of these two buildings said Booth. On the Tulilap Tribe Reservation the building there will need renovation, upgrading of wiring to handle power equipment that will be used for the canoe project. Rental payments will be needed for both areas and to purchase of a permanent building in Prince Rupert. Booth said for the Tsimshian canoes woodworking equipment, a supply, labor costs for master artists, carvers, helpers and advisors, payroll for directly participating with the Tsimshian Canoe carving and construction are needed. Transporting the Tsimshian Canoes from Marysville, Washington to Prince Rupert, BC is an expense said Booth. Once buildings are completed and ready for use by the Artists and Carvers, they start their work.

Booth said in Prince Rupert the goal is have a permanent place for the Tsimshian Artists and Carvers to do their artwork in a proper setting and the ability to display their artwork and better marketing of their artwork. This Tsimshian Cultural Event is to keep Tsimshian Arts on-going with establishment of an apprenticeship program or mentoring program where there will be opportunities for the youth, young adults, adults, Elders - providing a learning cultural heritage center to learn arts, learn about themselves and keep the arts going for generations to come. Booth said the overall goal is to develop self-sufficiency for the artists and carvers and improve their quality of life.

Other expenses will be for documenting, recording and filming of the entire event to be shared with the entire Tsimshian Nation. Recorded will be current Tsimshian History where on part of the Tsimshian moving, no Tsimshian Hereditary Chief was brought to Metlakatla, Alaska. Booth said it is a revival of Tsimshian being at sea and a re-enactment of their move to Alaska. Booth said costs are associated with the documenting, recording and filming this Tsimshian Cultural Event in 2007 for camera equipment, filming equipment, hiring of staff and following the whole event from start to finish. "Which means travel, living expenses, and necessary supplies to make it happen on film to preserve living history of the Tsimshian," said Booth.

Booth said Tsimshian gift giving is traditional and feasts or potlatchs show the significance of the occasion and its importance. Gifts distributed to witnesses at potlatches included objects of everyday use and others elaborated and decorated for ceremonial value: utensils, blankets, boxes, canoes and copper plates. Booth said one of the most valued items, which might be distributed or ceremonially burned at the feast, was oolichan grease. He said according to the he Northwest Coast, Indian and Northern Affairs, Canada, the oolichan is a member of the smelt family; the fish is harvested in great quantities and pressed to remove its oil, which is valued as a preservative for other foods and as a condiment. The fish is so rich in oil that, after pressing and drying, it can be threaded with a wick and burned as a candle; thus the alternative name 'candlefish'.

Booth said this Tsimshian Cultural Historic Event 2007 calls for three traditional feasts:

1. Chief Naming Feast in Metlakatla, Alaska

A. Tsimshian Traditional Gift Giving
B. Traditional Foods
C. Hiring of Help

2-3. Tradition Feast for Metlakatla, British Columbit and Metlakatla, Alaska for raising of Commemorative Totem Pole

A. Traditional Giving of Gifts
B. Traditional Foods
C. Hiring of Helpers

Booth said all of above activities planned for the 120th Anniversary are following the traditional ways of the Tsimshian people for Naming of Chief, Raising of Totem Poles, The Traditional Feasts and the Gift Giving.

On August 8th, it was announced that the Artists, Carvers and boat builders have been decided upon based on their expertise and knowledge of boat building and incorporating the Tsimshian Design in the Canoes.

Richard Kolin - Custom wooden traditional small craft, design and building, boatbuilding and maritime skills, instruction, oars and marine carving, chosen for his expertise in boat building along with his working knowledge and skills, will oversee the constructing of these canoes. Eli Milton will co-overseer to incorporate the Tsimshian designs to the canoes.

Richard Kolin has selected Pat Mahon, an instructor at the Northwest School of Boat building selected because of his ability to laminated wooden boats ( with emphasis on strip planking and fiberglass sheathing- our boat method ). He has extensive experience in commercial boat building, developing for the Tsimshian Canoe project, an efficient building process. His phase in the process is the finishing and fiberglass shop to complete the canoes.

Eric Harman - Boat builder who has been teaching woodworking and boat building classes for the last 20 years. He is a builder of canvas covered cedar canoes and has extensive experience in shop procedures and tooling.
Lance Regan will assist Richard and has been in several projects in boat building with Mr. Kolin.

Eli has chosen Delbert Hayward to work with the Tsimshian Canoe Project on the Tulilap Tribe Reservation, along with Fred Lauth, a totem pole carver and a Haida familiar in the area of sawmill work.

Coming from Prince Rupert, British Columbia area are:

Ian Morven, Tsimshian Artist and Carver will oversee projects in the Prince Rupert, BC area and is currently working on preliminary drawings of the two totem poles.

Henry Green will be assisting with the building and construction of the canoes. Pat Helin, Randy Dudoward and Gerald Stuart will also be assisting with the building and construction of the canoes.

Documenting and recording the entire cultural event by film, video and photography, will be Terrance H. Booth, Jr. Since his late Grandfather's death no current Tsimshian Cultural History has been documented or recorded and this will preserve this tribal historic cultural event for the next generation to see and for the Tsimshian people to have a remembrance of it said Terrance H. Booth, Sr.


Related Story:

The Founding of Metlakatla By DAVE KIFFER - Nearly 120 years ago today, an American coastal steamer pulled into Port Chester on the west side of Annette Island. On board the "Ancon" was the federal commissioner of education Nathaniel H.R. Dawson who was on a tour of educational facilities in the territory. But that was not why the Ancon anchored off Annette Island on Aug. 7, 1887. Also on board the ship was Father William Duncan.

Duncan - an Anglican missionary who has spent 30 years in British Columbia - was meeting with an advance party of more than 40 Tsimpshians from Old Metlakatla near modern day Prince Rupert, B.C.. Duncan was returning from Washington, D.C. where he had obtained permission from the US government to move more than 800 Tsimpshians to Alaska. - More...
Monday - August 07, 2006


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