Winter Issue BC Magazine ~ Potlatch Celebration

BC Magazine has run a story I recently photographed in Alert Bay in their Winter Issue.  It’s a fascinating look into the culture of a First Nations Potlatch celebration.   I knew I was in for something really different and thought provoking when I was woken up from my slumber @ 4:30am on the day of the celebration to the slow cadence of a drum beat that went on for a good 5 min.  Upon waking up later in the morning, I asked Beau Dick, the well known Kwakwaka’wakw carver and host of the potlatch (and whose house I was staying at) what the deal was with the drums starting so early in the morning.  He looked at me slowly stroking his beard and said, “you heard that?” and he proceeded to mimic the exact cadence of the drum beat I had earlier heard, I said, “yup that was it!”   He looked me in the eye, paused for a moment and said that what I was hearing was in fact the Elders of previous generations calling their ancestors to the potlatch and that as an “outsider: I was not supposed to hear such things!”  The hair on my scalp bristled after I heard that,  and I knew I was in for something special.

After completion of the Forest Dance, Beau Dick burns masks he carved in the central fire of the Bighouse, a decision not favored by everyone involved with protocol and procedures for the potlatch.

After completion of the Forest Dance, Beau Dick burns masks he carved in the central fire of the Bighouse, a decision not favored by everyone involved with protocol and procedures for the potlatch.