I heard drumming. I heard people laughing. I heard people clapping. I was at the Floata Seafood Restaurant in Vancouver Chinatown, and the restaurant was filled with First Nations peoples.
Last night, I walked into Floata Seafood Restaurant to discuss details with the manager Antonia Hwang about the upcoming Jan 30th Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner. The Eagle Society fundraiser was celebrating the Supreme Court ruling that the BC Government must behave honourably in negotiations with the Haida people.
It was a joyous occasion. I wondered if my Mom's cousin, Chief Rhonda Larrabee, of the Qayqayt (New Westminster) Band was there. They knew of her, and said I could go look.
I stood transfixed as an older male and female First Nations peoples walked from one end of the restaurant to the other, speaking into the microphones. It was a kind of comedy skit, addressing their journey to Vancouver, commenting on topical issues. A First Nations comedy skit. Wow!
I looked around the room. I saw Miles Richardson, Robert Davidson and Guujaaw from the Haida Nation. I last saw Guujaaw on a plane from Vancouver to Japan in 1993, when we were both on our way to China. Me to Beijing to visit friends, and he to Yunan province to help consult with Chinese aboriginals “before the sharks from Hong Kong get in,” he said. He was part of the a BC group of Canadian Aboriginal peoples going to network with Chinese aboriginals in one of China's ethnic provinces. Leading the group was Sandra Sachs on a CIDA project to develop a banking trust company for the Chinese aboriginals in Yunan. 11 years ago, and he remembered me.
The couple on stage starte a blanket dance. This is where in aboriginal culture, they call your people or clan up, and you dance your way to the stage and throw money into the blanket. They called on CTV news anchorwoman Pamela Martin, who was there with her husband. Pamela went up with her hosts, the Coast Salish people. The Haida were called up next. Later on they called on all the lawyers in the audience.
After Pamela came back to her table, I greeted her. “Pamela, everytime I meet you, you are eating Chinese food!” We had co-hosted a fundraiser dinner for the West Vancouver Rotary Club back in May in that very room at Floata. It was titled Shanghai Nights, and introduced a Chinese theme to the West Vancouver crowd and their Rotary friends. I told her briefly about Salish artist Susan Point, who had donated a blanket that her husband had just brought to her. Susan Point is one of my favorite artists. I have two silk screen prints of hers titled “Spirit of the Eagle.”
The festivities of the First Nations celebrations brought back memories of visiting Haida Gwaii in 1990. With friends we drove up to Massett, and met Claude Davidson (Robert's father). Claude invited us to come back in the fall when they were going to do a pole raising that his other son was carving. Unfortunately Claude passed away a few months later and the celebration pole became a mortuary pole.
But the land claims settlement is very important for First Nations peoples. I wish everybody in Canada could have the chance to meet the people of Haida Gwaii. It was only a week in September that I spent, but I felt like so many people opened up their hearts to me and my companion, as we visited the Haida watchmen at Skedans Village site, and Hot Springs Island.