Transcripts for Woody Morrison Jr., Haida Storyteller
Start 2:20 – Residential schools in his dad’s generation
In my dad’s generation, my father’s now 96 years old, and the generation just before him were sent to Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. They sent them were sent all the way from Alaska to Pennsylvania and others were sent to the Haskell Institute in Lawrence, Kansas. In fact, one of the guys from my village played against Jim Thorp when Jim Thorp played for Carlisle. They used to talk about the way those schools were, see they were kinda lucky in a way, they were sent to schools when they were older, not like in Canada where they were just little children when they took them. So they did have some ways of fighting back, of survival, of banding together.
3:17 – Not wanting to be sent to school
So when it came time for me to go, I didn’t want to go. The old men started teaching me when I was pretty small and they warned me about those things but they also decided I was the one that was going to be a lawyer. So that meant I had to go to school, regardless of how much, well regardless of how I felt about it. I was sent to a Presbyterian school in Sitka, Alaska. Sheldon Jackson. For the most part we were treated pretty well, but I hated it, I didn’t want to be there. I wanted to be a fisherman, I wanted to go on the trap line with my dad, hunting.
4:15 – Conflicts in school with religious teachings
The only way that I could survive that thing was that I had to fight all the time. I fought anybody, all the time. I was always in trouble. There weren’t always fistfights, but I got kicked out of classes. Once because I got in an argument with a teacher—the teacher said that, well since it was a Presbyterian school, it was Christian teachings, and she said that if you didn’t know Jesus Christ you were going to Hell. I said, “Well what about my great grandparents? They never heard about Jesus.” And she said they all probably went to Hell. And I just went into a rage. I started throwing desks and chairs around and I thought—is that what love is all about? And then I got kicked out of class. Wasn’t too much longer, I got kicked out for something else.
5:11 – Put on tranquilizers by school
And so what they did, finally, was they took me over to the Native hospital at Mt. Edgecumbe, it’s an island across, we had to take a ferry to get there and it cost a dime and it was free to get back. But they sent me over there and I was put on tranquilizers… and I didn’t know what those pills were. I’m walking around in a fog, and everything’s just weird. One day I thought maybe it’s those pills so I stop taking them and I start sweating and shaking and I got sick so I went over to Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital and I talked to the nurse and she asked me what kind of pills I was taking and I showed her and she immediately was angry. She really tore into somebody about that. But to this day, I don’t want to take anything, because…
6:09 – Positive experience living with Cherokee grandparents
Well, you see, my ninth grade year, my mother didn’t want me to go to the boarding school, so I was sent to Southern California to live with my Cherokee grandparents and they lived up in the mountains in Southern California where my grandfather worked on apple orchards and my grandmother was a cook at one of the school houses so I was sent to junior high school in Yucaipa, California.
6:34 –Cherokee grandfather’s residential school experience
But I got a chance to spend most of the year with my Cherokee grandfather and he used to take me out to Mojave Desert. Just take off and go out into the desert. Didn’t take any camp gear, we’d spend a couple of nights out there, and then we’d come home. He talked about when he was young. He got sent to Haskell and so did his brother. His brother took off from school, hopped freight trains to get back to Oklahoma from Kansas. And then the police would catch him and take him back.
7:15 – Pushing people away at his school, didn’t want any part of it because of stories from his aunts and uncles about harassment for speaking Haida
But one of the things learned from that was I couldn’t make it by myself, but when I got to Sitka to go to school, everyone was fitting in it seemed like to me and I didn’t want any part of it, so I pretty much was a loner. I wasn’t very good at making friends. People would get close to me, I’d say something or do something to offend them, to keep them away from me, because that was my survival technique. And I talked to somebody, Louis Kitkoon, he’s the one just a little older than my uncle, and my aunt who was about five or six years older, and my uncle, my uncle Louis Kitkoon was born in 1900. But when they were there, they had to wear a little patch, like Hitler did to the Jews. But they wore a little patch just with a thin thread holding it on that said “Speak English.” And if I caught you talking Haida, I’d take that nametag, and take that tag and it had your name sewn on the back. At the end of the day we’d turn them in and whoever turned in the most would get a prize. So that was one of the things they did to stop you from speaking your language. And so I knew all these stories. I knew what they were doing. And just because they were nice people didn’t mean I was going to trust them because I knew.
8:55 – Falsified photographs from visiting Protestant group
Well when I was a boy too, I was about ten years old, there was a Protestant group came to my village and I forget which, they were a missionary group, but I forget what they were called, but anyway, they got the three of us boys, well, we were showing them around town and we went up by where we have totem poles, and so they paid us 25 cents to kneel in front of those poles like we were praying while they took our pictures. And then, as we were going close past my grandparent’s house I pointed out my uncle’s smokehouse down by the beach so we went down there and so they had a bag, I was wondering why they were carrying this. Kind of noisy, I could hear clinking. And what they had in there was their empty beer bottles and whiskey bottles. And so they wanted to put soot on us and take our picture pretending to be drunk, like we were living in that smokehouse. But I wouldn’t do it and they paid the other two boys a dollar a piece. My God, that’s a fortune. But then they went to Seattle and put the word out they were going to show some pictures from Alaska. Well, there’s lots of Haidas from Hydaburg, Alaska in Seattle and when they saw those pictures, those missionaries were told, you come into our village, we’re going to shoot you on sight. So they never came back.
10:21 – Colonization from missionaries and generation separation
If they want to be Christians, fine, they can believe whatever they want. But don’t talk to me about it, because you’re wasting your time. What they did, I think the real focus wasn’t so much, like here in Canada, they talked about a final solution, this was the 1800’s, about how to beat the Indian out of the kid. What they did to us is they had to take us away from our grandparents, because our grandparents were the ones who raised us. Our parents didn’t know anything about raising kids, so if you could break that link between us and our grandparents, you’re taking out a generation. And so that’s how they could get us away from the land too. When you’re away from home… they indoctrinate you, well people call it brainwashing, but brainwashing implies removing impure thoughts, so maybe that’s what they were doing. But when we got home, after spending a year of being told that everything we did at home as bad, wrong, dirty, evil, sick, whatever… Well, when you grow up in a tribal society the non-verbal communication is paramount. So we would get home and they’d see this rejection, and they would reject us. So once you get this dialectic, this tension between two worlds, once it starts, you go back to school, you come back, the gap gets wider and wider until finally you’re in a state of normlessness, you can’t fit in any other place, but now you’re an individual. They’ve taken away that cohesiveness that’s permitted us to survive intact for literally a hundred thousand years. But now we have individual liberties. And now I can do whatever I want, because I am free to do what I want, and the constitution guarantees me my liberal freedoms.
12:51 – Individuality leads to loneliness, leads to addictions
And so, now, I can go get drunk. And I start thinking about that because people say alcoholism is really the result of either genetic factors, environmental factors, or physiological. Now if that was true, we’d all be alcoholics or drug addicts. But I think it’s really a combination of things. One, they take away that sense of belonging, of where, in Haida it’s called Dii guudangaay klatsgaa “my mind is strong for you because you stand by me.” When you take that away, now I’m alone. I’m born alone. I die alone. But in Haida you’re not born alone and you don’t die alone. There’s always a Spirit with you. But now that I’m alone, there’s an emptiness right here.
13:48 – Spiritual emptiness felt by his grandmother
My dad’s mother, when she was a hundred years old, she lived and she was quite alert up until she was a hundred and four years old, but she told me how she would pray every morning and every evening for about an hour for all her kids, everybody, but always she felt that emptiness there. It came about when I asked her about Sangsgaanwaay, in Haida that’s the word for the Big Spirit in the atmosphere, God. And God doesn’t have a face, that’s a name that describes the indescribable nameless, and it isn’t good or bad, it’s everywhere, you breathe it, you eat it, you drink it, no matter which way you turn you can’t turn your back on it. And it doesn’t matter if you believe in it because it is. And so I was asking her questions about that when she [gasping sound]. She says, “Now I know.” And she talked about that empty feeling. And I think that’s probably a part of what happens when you get these individual liberties.
14:54 – Spiritual void and addictions
You have individual freedom, you’re an individual, you have a Spiritual void, and that’s the only way you can fill it, is you’ve got to put something in there. That’s why they refer to alcohol as Spirit, and drug is the medicine of confusion, well both of them, and it’s said when you’re using those things, it’s like a newborn child, that if that child isn’t where it can hear a heartbeat, its Spirit can leave it at any time. And so that’s what happens when you’re drunk or on drugs, is you can’t hear anybody else’s heartbeat nearby, and your Spirit can leave at any time.
15:40 – Colonization as a metaphor for Haida tradition of cutting off heads of those deemed to wander forever for their poor choices (i.e. murder)
To me, when you take away that sense of belonging, that sense of a shared soul with all other things to where now I have only my soul, that’s a pretty damn lonely thing to do to me. So what they did, they throw it at us all the time about the Jewish Holocaust, and I have no doubts it happened, people can say what they want about it, but the difference is they killed them. Theirs went on for six years, ours has been going on for two or three hundred years, maybe four hundred years. They take away our reason to be alive. That’s much more horrible than just killing us. Because, it’s like in Haida, if you did something so heinous, something so despicable that it couldn’t be named, we’d cut your head off, because without your head you [your Spirit] wander eternally and can never make it to The Village Back There. Well that’s what’s happened to us. They took away our heads, they cut off our heads, so now we have to wander and hope we can go to Heaven. So when you have that kind of situation, well what in the Hell are you going to do? You got to do something to fill that void to make you feel like at least you’re alive.
17:24 – Institutionalized all his life
With me, when I got out of school, I went right into the military, and I didn’t get out until I was 25 years old. Well I started kindergarten when I was 4. So for 21 years, I was institutionalized, and of course I was angry. I mean there was a rage going on in there. I would lash out and I nearly killed people. I didn’t kill them, but it wasn’t because I wasn’t trying. There were people that would intercede, and I knew, after the last one, I was absolutely convinced that I will kill the next one.
18:08 – Family violence in the form of emotional/psychological abuse, the healing powers of sweats and ceremonies
And fortunately I never turned my anger on my family, in a physical way, but I abused my wife and kids emotionally I guess, psychologically. They were terrified of me and I wanted it to stop and I didn’t know what I was going to do. It was sort of funny in a way, my wife had called me wanting a divorce the night before final exams when I was in Law school, and that really just… That was history, but anyway, I got invited to go to a sweat. It was a woman who invited me because it was for her birthday. There were a bunch of us and my reason for going to the sweat had nothing to do with Spirituality. And I knew what it was going to be, it was going to be dark, and it was going to be hot, and it was going to be sweaty. So this was what went through my mind and I went into that sweat and it wasn’t very long before I suddenly saw what I had become, and I wanted no part of that and I yelled, “Let me the Hell out of here“, and I forced my way out. I wanted no part of that. It was a couple weeks later I was convinced, this guy practically twisted my arm to get me in the sweat again, and this was in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and I decided, I’m going to face me. It was the first time that I can recall crying since I was a kid and I was ashamed of myself and I walked out after four rounds. This Navajo guy came up and he put his arm around my shoulder and he says, “Congratulations, Woody, now you’re weak enough to be a man.” [laugh] So from that, I went to an Apache psychologist who also turned out to be a medicine man. He took me into a sweat. And then from there I went into peyote ceremonies, I went to more sweat ceremonies…
20:20 – In and out of treatment centers until going to Poundmaker in Alberta
I went to AA and found out I’m not an alcoholic. I went to ALANON and I just got mad. Nobody should have to learn how to live with an alcoholic. And then I found a program called Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA) and I stuck with them for a long time until finally I went to a treatment program in Northern Alberta, right outside of Edmonton, called Poundmaker, and that’s when the rage broke.
20:24 – Fitting back in
It was only after that rage broke that I could start fitting back in to becoming part of a group again, because up until then I was still pretty much a lone wolf, going at it alone. And when I saw the movie made by the Maori, We Once Were Warriors, I was able to totally identify with everything in that film except for beating up women and children.
21:20 – Tendency to fight and finding an alternative to rage
I used to pick the biggest guy I could find; maybe I was hoping, this one could kill me. I wasn’t what you would call a good fighter. I was just crazy. I wouldn’t even remember it afterward when the rage was gone. In the ten years that I tried to figure out how to make that stop, I managed to meet a lot of Elders from a lot of places all across North America, from Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia. It all seemed like we were trying to find the same thing, we were all trying to find our way back. A man from West Africa said, you know, we’ve got to stop once in awhile and let your Spirit catch up. Well how the Hell is my Spirit going to catch up when I don’t know where it is? They cut my head off.
22:21 – Strategy for recovering your Spirit, healing
One day I asked an old, old man—I said how do I find my Spirit? He said, it’ll find you. And I asked you, how am I going to do that? And he said, stand on the land that’s your home. Carry your mind, just stand there quiet. Pretty soon you’ll feel your Spirit come back. And that’s when my healing began, when I could feel that come back again.
23:01 – Going back to Native thinking to face problems and heal
I started remembering a lot of things I had wiped out, even simple things. They turned everything backwards on us, they turned our world upside down. They would tell me when you’ve got some bad thing that’s happened, put it behind you. And then I started remembering, in Haida when we talk about the past, Awaahlgagwii, “it’s way over there.” The past is in front of me, not behind me. I can see it. It’s like I’m sitting in the river and the river is coming this way. When something shows up, I have to deal with it then, because it’ll never be there again. Once in awhile, in a river, something will get caught in it, and it’ll hit me. That’s that traumatic experience. If I put it behind me like they said, it’s going to hit me in the face again, but if I let it go, I can see where it fits in to my history and it starts to make sense. That’s when another part of my healing began. I could see. And there’s times I get, I guess, depressed, when I start seeing me, the journey I’ve been on and the people I’ve hurt, but it’s all part of me, I can’t deny it.
24:30 – What to pray for and being thankful; stories as information
So in Haida I was told that there’s four things I could ask for when I prayed, I mean five. One was give me the strength to be strong enough to be weak, the courage to be tall enough not to be small—my stature is determined by how tall I am, not how small I make somebody else look, the clear vision to see where I’ve been, the guidance to take me where I’m going, and the protection I’m going to need on my journey. Beyond that, I can only say thank you, rather than giving a shopping list, because if I start asking for something, I’m trying to tell God or this power, I’m powerful too, and you’re not giving it to me, because you don’t know enough to give me the things I want. It fits right back into, like with my two children, well, my daughter turned 39 for the first time, but anyway, when they want advice, I don’t give it to them. I never offer it to them. What I do it tell them a story and within the story is information they can use, but it doesn’t tell them which way to go. To me, it’s the same thing when we’re praying. If I’m asking for something, I’m telling God or whatever that Spirit is, I’m smart enough to know what I need rather than what I’m going to be given.
26:09 – Calling the Spirit to you to see what you need
My uncle, the one that’s 98, he told me, he said, sometimes, when you’re really, really sick, or when something’s really wrong, maybe I’m not supposed to ask for something, maybe I’m not supposed to get well, maybe I’m not supposed to be found. Instead of asking for something, DiiXaahlaan daa o kyaaganggaaang, “my Spirit calls out, come and take a look, see what I need.” What more can you do than that, you know? The Spirit is going to come and see what you need, rather than—this is what I want, this is what I need. Or sometimes giving you the strength to be able to deal with what I’ve got to face. Again, it goes back to that feeling of being apart of something, rather than being by myself.
27:10 – Rediscovery wilderness camp program for youth
There’s a program called Rediscovery that started with Haida Gwai on Queen Charlotte Islands in Canada. There’s a part of it where the kids, they have volunteer, no one can make them do it, but they have to be alone for 24 hours. It’s a wilderness camp out along the ocean. They were given a raw potato, two matches, and a boiling pot, and taken out about a mile or so from the camp. They had to set up a camp, build a fire, and be alone for 24 hours. Part of it was, most people don’t know themselves very well and they don’t particularly like themselves, so it’s hard to be alone in the dark with someone you don’t particularly like and know very well. And so at any time the kid decides, I can’t handle this, the kid goes back and there’s no stigma attached to it. This is totally their choice. But this is a way in which you can find, you know, look at yourself, and say, is this really what I want to be?
28:26 – Women as the basis of Haida culture, respecting children
And so… When we talk about family violence, about what we do to our families, like I said, they turned everything backwards on us, they turned everything upside down. In Haida, the whole basis of our culture is based on women. I was told that when the totem—they’re not true totems in the sense they’re on the east coast, because there’s no Spiritual relationship between me and any of the figures on that pole, that’s a family history, called [Gyaang]. [Gyaang] means “it’s standing.” I was told that the person that commissions that pole, the top figure is his clan, crest, whatever, and then probably his uncles. But the bottom was always the crest of his wife. So when people say low man on a totem pole, that’s as far from being correct as you can get. That denotes someone of very low stature, someone that’s really worthless. But, again, that’s not correct. They dig a hole, they put that pole in, they stand it up, and it’s said that the woman’s feet are in the water, her body is in the land, her upper torso is in the air. So it says that female energy ties together water, earth, and sky, and her husband is balanced on her shoulders, so if she loses her balance, they fall. So not only does that female energy tie together that water, earth, and sky, the balance of the cosmos is entirely dependent on the stability of that female energy. That takes us totally out of the realm of everything that’s been brought and dumped on us. Children and women are channeled, they’re owned. They can be abused, they can be bought and sold, sexually abused, physically abused, and mostly whatever, because they’re not even humans. But for us, a child is an adult who has not yet learned the proper ways of doing things.
30:27 – Traditional repercussions for disrespecting women
My mother, you know, that’s the first sound that I hear, my mother’s heart, that’s what that drum is, my mother’s heartbeat. And so how can I treat her that way? In fact, the insult in Haida was, they would point at someone and say, which says you came from the vagina of a dog. When I hear these young guys refer to a woman or a girl, his mother or sister, as a bitch, that used to be a killing insult. You didn’t do that. If I abused my wife and she goes and tells her brothers, they’d kill me, and no one could say anything about it.
31:18 – Lineage from women, missionaries destroying customs
Women… Everything was focused on that… Our family lineage comes from my mother not my dad. There’s kind of a joke about that, about pig and the chicken. Looking at this bacon and egg, ham and egg, breakfast. Chicken says, mighty beautiful breakfast, didn’t it? Pig says, easy for you to say, you made a contribution, I had to make a total commitment. (laughing) So, you know, one makes a contribution, the other has to make a total commitment. It stands to reason. But our history says women came into being before men, so that’s why the children belong to the mother. All the power of the family, the wealth of the family flows on the mother’s side. My inheritance comes from my mother’s brother, not from my father. I’m not related to him. He’s Raven, I’m Eagle. And even that, they managed to get involved with, the missionaries actually encouraged people of the same [Clan/Crest] to marry each other. This was to break down the system much faster. So when you look at it…
32:45 – Reading the bible at a young age
Well one of the things I got in trouble for in school was when they said you had to take Jesus Christ as your personal savior and we had to read the bible there at school. And I started reading when I was four years old. I’d seen my mother reading and I was wondering what she was doing and so she said, well, they tell me a story. So she’d put her finger there and say what those words were. And then later, I’d put my finger there and I’d go along and she’d read. I had no idea what it was, but I got to where I could say the words, but the insight that goes into learning to read, I didn’t know. But when I started kindergarten and they were teaching the alphabet, I could read some of the words already, but real reading didn’t come until later. I used to read everything, anything I could get my hands on, and so I read the bible. I wanted to see what these people were getting all… Oh, I’ll back up…
33:54 – Devastated when he found out he was being sent to school
When I knew I was going to be sent to school; it was eighth grade, I didn’t want to go. So I decided, if I do everything I’m told, maybe they won’t send me away. My dad bought me a complete set of Encyclopedia Britannicas in the fall of 1954 when I started eighth grade. Between the time I got that and I graduated from eighth grade, I had read all 24 volumes of that. I started going to Sunday school and church, they didn’t have to tell me, and then I actually got up and accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior and I had a bible with a white leather covering on it. And I just knew okay, they’re not going to send me away, I’m behavior, doing everything. Come May, we got out of school in May because of fishing season, we came in from the fishing grounds in August, and I went in the house towards the end of August and it was like somebody had stabbed me in the heart because I saw my mother was packing this Footlocker with clothes, and I just knew it was for me. I asked, what are you doing mom? She said, oh, this is for when you go away to school. I didn’t say anything. I walked out of the house and I just ran. There’s a muskeg, so I just ran right up to the small river there. There’s a place called Giilaay, Giilaay in Haida is a round hole in the water, it’s a deep place where the water’s still. So I sat there and I cried, and I cried. Then I thought, I got to do it, so I guess I’m going to do it. So then I went home and I never said anything about it.
36:10 – Journey to school at 13 years old
When we left, my mother flew with me to Ketchikan. We had to go by [air], a sea plane, to [Ketchikan], and then they’d fly from there over to Annette Island to the airport to catch Pan-American to fly from there. So my mother went to Ketchikan with me. I cried most of the night. Then the next morning I pretended everything was okay. My mother put me on a plane, I was thirteen years old, hadn’t turned fourteen yet, and I flew to Seattle, had to find my own hotel room, and then get back to the airport the next morning, and catch a plane and then fly on to Los Angeles to where my grandparents met me. So I thought, well, that didn’t work. (laughing)
37:06 – Rejecting school’s views on Jesus Christ
So when I got to Sheldon Jackson School, and they told me about this thing where you had to accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior, I said, that’s not what it says in that book, I read it. I said what it said is Jesus said okay, now, if you pay attention to what I’m telling you, and you live according to this way, you’re going to be okay. They didn’t say you have to get down and pray to me and my mom. It didn’t say anything like that. Of course I got kicked out. (laughing)
37:40 – Changing schools because of getting in trouble
Like I said, they keep twisting things and twisting things. They twisted the whole thing about our relationships. Like I had two sisters at the school but I don’t remember ever really talking to them. And then I was in trouble so much that at the end of my junior year, I was told I wasn’t welcome to come back. Sort of hinted that if I did try to come back, they’d have me arrested for trespassing. But anyway, so, my mother applied for me to go to Mt. Edgecumbe High School, the government boarding school on the island across from Sitka. And they didn’t want me, because recommendation from the Christians was so bad, but my mother got some political influence through the Alaska Native Brotherhood and got me in. Well, things didn’t change much there. I had already been labeled, so, I couldn’t change.
38:43 – How he started drinking, filling the void created by schooling
New Year’s Eve, 1958, I spent locked in a linen room. (laughing) Because I punched the head advisor, a man named Mr. Prock. I was already on restriction and my job was to fold linen, you know, sheets and pillowcases and stuff. Anyway, I was doing that and this head guy came in there and the rumor was he’d worked in a prison, but anyway, he said something to me… I mean he was just a little guy, well I was a little guy too, and finally I had enough and I just twirled around and I hit him in the stomach as hard as I could. I didn’t know he had ulcers. So he hit the deck and I went back to folding linen. Then all of a sudden the doorway’s dark, and I could see this was the guy who is the head of the dormitory I was in. There was A Dorm, B, C, D, and E, and I was in A Dorm. And this was also National Guard students, and this guy was huge. He had been a professional football player but his knees had gone. And he said to me, Woodrow, you think you’re pretty tough, don’t you. And I said, yeah. He said, well if you’re so tough, you should try taking a poke at me. I looked at him. I had a Coke bottle there. So I grabbed a Coke bottle, and those damn things are hard to break, but I slammed it down on a cement floor, and I ran at him, he was only about 2, 3, 4 steps away from me, and he grabbed the doorknob and he pulled the door shut and he locked the door. So, this is New Year’s Eve, and I think, well, I guess I’m going to be in here for a while. I didn’t know what I was going to do. Sat there, folded linen, just kept doing it, because you know, something to do. And I don’t know how long I was in there and I heard this tapping on the door, this voice saying, Woody, Woody. I said, who is it? He said, it’s me, Sabaaj. He was this Eskimo guy named Sylvester Keats [?]. His mother was a traditional healer. But he said, “I got the key.“ (laughing) I said, okay, open the door. So he unlocked the door, and he handed me a pint of vodka and two or three bottles of Squirt. He says, Merry Christmas partner. (laughing) I was 17 years old, you know. He was probably 18. I don’t know where he got it from. So I sat in there New Year’s Eve with this bottle of vodka, I don’t know how much of it I drank. So that’s how I got my start of filling the void of being alone. But it made it bearable. And so that’s what I think it was all about, making it bearable.
42:00 – Repercussions at school lead to long-term rage
I was on restriction for four months. I was supposed to take a girl to the senior prom and an hour before I was supposed to go and pick her up, I was told I couldn’t go, so I had to call the girl’s dorm and tell her I couldn’t go. That was in 1959 and I don’t know if I’ve ever, if we’ve ever spoken to one another after that. They wouldn’t even let me visit with my parents. The guy I went after with a broken bottle; my mother came to see if she could take me out to dinner, and I remember him telling my mother that if she wanted to see me so bad, she could very well just take me out of school and take me home, and my mother started to cry. I told him then, some day, you’re going to walk by a dark alley and I’m going to be waiting for you. Well, after I got out of the Navy, I ran into him in the street at Juneau (Alaska) and I was with, there were four of us… one was another Haida and two were Blackfeet guys from Montana. And I told these guys what had happened with him. I said, just play along with it. So I went up to him. I said, remember what I told you? The day is here. I was quite cruel. I made him get on his knees and beg for forgiveness. And these guys were saying…, “Let me at him, let me at him!“ The whole thing was a sham; I wouldn’t hurt him. He wasn’t that much older, probably maybe late 40’s, around 50, 50 years old by then. But it just told me how much of a coward he was. It was okay for him to pick on—I must’ve weighed a good 125 lbs. when he came in and challenged me like that.
44:16 – Western greed and eternal hunger
But I managed to get things straightened around to where what I really want now is for people to start looking at what are our rules of good conduct. You look around the world and see what the Ten Commandments have gotten us. We got a total world that’s being destroyed, because we’re living according to their rules. And the rule says that I can never have too much. [Hlgawjuu], “I’m going to keep grabbing.” It isn’t a hunger, it isn’t a need. It’s just this absolute conviction that I can never have too much and I’ll do anything to get it. That’s what wars are fought over.
45:02 – Effects of historical trauma on youth
And so now, we take a look at our kids, they’re addicted to all sorts of stuff trying to find some way to get that Spirit back in them, but they’re not going to do it that way, because their heads have been cut off.
45:20 – Advice for social workers on tribal protocol
When I was in undergraduate school, I got a degree in Sociology, and a lot of it sounded very good, in fact, a lot of it works really well for people with personal liberties. When you have those kind of so-called freedoms, but it frees you up to devastate everything and take anything you want, to try to fight to get to the top of that pyramid all the time. But for us, it doesn’t work, because it keeps separating us. I worked with social, well, students who were social worker students at Calgary University, and I started teaching them what I call tribal protocols on how to conduct an interview without asking questions and this was totally the antithesis of what they were being taught as counselors. I’d tell them, well first of all, you don’t ask any questions, which means that you’re going to have to establish a relationship, which is a no-no. But first you’ve got to do some self-disclosure. Tell them something about yourself. Start a conversation. The other person will join the conversation, and through this conversation, you’ll learn everything you need to know to do your job. But the person hasn’t been asked a question, so they don’t answer the question. They tell you everything you need to know. So that’s the way the system is supposed to work, to where you establish relationships.
46:57 – Tribal protocol for giving advice and asking for favors
The other thing is, I can never volunteer to help you, to do anything, because now I’m saying I know better than you. I can’t give you advice, because now I’m supposed to be so smart that I know what’s best for you. But if we talk about things, and you ask me something, it’s sort of like when I lived in a village in the Lower Yukon in Alaska, school teacher was visiting, we were having coffee, there was just one school and the school had two teachers, the principal and his wife. My wife’s cousin came in, so I offered him coffee, and I asked him, what are you doing? He said, I was going to cut wood, but my chainsaw, he’s pretty sick. I said, gee, well, I’m sorry to hear that. I said, my saw, she’s pretty sick too. So when he finished his coffee, he said, well I got to go. And so this teacher asked, what was that all about? I said, he didn’t ask to borrow my chainsaw, and I didn’t tell him no. See again, there’s this way so how do I do this dance so that you don’t offend each other. If he asks me directly, he’s putting me in a bad direction, because maybe I don’t want to loan it to him, but this way, I’m given the option to say, okay, you can use mine. But I don’t want to acknowledge that he’s asked me to use it, so I can’t tell him I’m going to use it. So this is the way there’s no conflict between us, and that’s how you can fit in.
48:46 – Coping with emotions and personality growth after addiction
But when you try to go through treatment programs, now, Adult Children of Alcoholics, this one was a little bit different. One of the things I learned in there was that it does not matter what culture, what language, what nationality, what religion you are, alcohol affects everybody exactly the same way, addictions do. And you can go to a program like AA or NA or whatever, that’ll keep you clean and sober, but once the addiction begins, personality growth ceases. And so by just staying sober or clean does nothing to restart that growth. One of the things I learned from the Adult Children of Alcoholics was about this co-dependency, is that, the only requirement for membership was the desire to be happy, and once you start the process, you start again finding out that you have feelings. Because when you’re in the other situation, like with PTST and the rest of this stuff, you have two feelings—fear, you scare me, you better run, because immediately I switch it into anger. So when I started experiencing these other feelings, I had no idea what was going on. So they gave me a sheet that had the names of all these feelings on it. So I used to keep it there in my office and I’d feel something and I’d look at it and say oh, that’s what I’m feeling. And it was really fascinating to find out I had so many different feelings about different things. What you learn is that when you hit a certain point in your healing, your recovery, you get scared, because I don’t know what the rules are anymore. There are no rules. Trust your feelings, that’s why you have them. See, when you’re also in that other situation, nobody knows what normal is, because there’s really no such thing, but I’m trying to guess at what normal is, so I’ll watch your behavior and see how you do things and start to copy things, but I’m always a quarter of a bubble off, you know, a leveler, a little bit off, so my timing is always wrong. And so I make these faux pas, these mistakes, and it makes me feel insecure. So any time I start to feel insecure, I become aggressive. And so I start forcing my way through things. Again, I’m getting worse, rather than getting better. The other side effect that’s not so good is that once you begin finding your way back, your family gets scared of you. Because as long as I was out of control, as long as I was being obsessive, they knew exactly which buttons to push, but when I stopped being that obsessive character, they couldn’t predict what I was going to do anymore. They’d press a button and instead of me getting mad and yelling at them, I’d say, hey, that sounds like a pretty good idea. You know, what are we going to do now? So when people start getting into healing, they’re going to have to be aware that their whole world is going to change because it has to change. You have to get back to the other side.
52:40 – Women as the final word of authority, less stress in the society
One of the things we used to joke about… See when you grow up in a matrilineal society, we always know that the women make the decisions. Traditionally, like I’m the uncle, this is my house, these are my nephews, but I’m Eagle, my daughters are all Raven, like their mother, so the more daughters I have, the wealthier I am, because my son-in-laws, the fruits of their labor are going to accrue to my house. We sit around the fire, we talk about things, solve problems, whatever. The women sit in a different circle and they don’t say anything until we get stuck. Then I raise my hands like this, indicating to the deepest respect, and say sisters advise us, and whatever they say, that’s the way it had to be. None of this Spirit of what they’re saying, whatever, no, that’s how it is. When you know that, there’s no big problem with it. My responsibility or my authority really ends when I go out that front door, because this is her world. There were all sorts of things taught to us about that house. See that doorway represents the woman’s privates because that’s where all life comes out, life is not to be lived inside, and a man must never enter without permission, even if it’s his own house. But if she invites him in, he must enter in such a way that when he leaves, the other person is honored that he’d been there. If she gives him sustenance, he’s supposed to sing for her. And then we go in and find out that a woman must cleave unto her husband and all this stuff, again, the world is upside down. We used to joke about that. You know, when you come from a matrilineal society, there’s not this pressure to always be on top. So you can read that however you like, but (laughing), there’s a lot less stress, I’ll put it that way, when you live in a matrilineal society. Because one of the things Raven, and Coyote; their function is to remind us that we are not in control. When I can finally accept that I’m not in control, I don’t have to worry about it. It’s sort of like the bumper sticker that says: now that I gave up hope, I feel much better. It’s kind of like that. But if you feel like you have to run your wife’s life, your children’s lives, everybody else around you, you’re going to be stressed out all the time. But see the women’s world is none of my business. From the time I was a little boy I never heard anything about what women did. My responsibility was how I behaved toward the women. My job was to walk beside her, to provide for her, and protect her. We could argue and fuss and fight and all those other things, but I could never step into her world. That’s, again, none of my business. And so, the women, never tried to step into my business. There was a possibility that a woman could become, we’ll say, a chief, but our word for chief does not mean anything like what the European word means—chief means you’re the boss, you lead, whatever. With us, it means literally, the big boss who can’t give orders. People follow you because they respect your intelligence and your being. You’re a person of depth. As you get deeper in the water, the pressure gets greater from all sides, so you have to become a bigger person inside. So that’s what a chief was—a big person inside. And so that’s who we’d follow. Now, if there was some catastrophic thing that happened and a woman had to take that role, well, once she stepped down and sat with the men, she could no longer make the difficult decisions, so it was actually a demotion if she took on that role, because if she got stuck, she had to ask the women, advise me.
57:37 – Haida system vs. Western democracy
And democracy… We have 23 clans. Those 23 clans sit and talk. There’s no debate. There’s no arguing about it. Each one would put their knowledge into the pot. And then when they finally got through talking about it, 22 of them were going to do one thing, and one of them said they were going to do something else. Because you talked about how this is going to affect me and my family, this is what I feel, this is what I believe, this is what I know, not what I heard, what I agree with or disagree with. No, this is how it’s going to affect my clan, my family, so we’re going to have to do this. But under this new system, majority rules. The way you figure out how smart that majority is, you take the lowest IQ of that group and you multiply it times the number of those people, or divide it by the number of those people, and that’s what you come out with—how intelligent that group really is in democracy. Whereas in our system, we all know exactly what everybody’s going to do, and that’s when we have this common mind. The whole society has a common mind. We all have the same cultural imperatives, whereas in the other system it’s pyramid to where everybody’s trying to get to the top. The language is a command language; the society is a command society. With ours, you’re born into it. I inherit from my uncle, so if I’m going to kill my brother to become chief, he’ll get rid of me, because it doesn’t work that way. So we have to go back to again finding that balance.
59:36 – Preparing for prophecy of times changing
According to our history, we’re coming up to the time of change to where it’s going to level off again, but we have to be ready for it. We have to start teaching our young people—how do we start getting back together again? If we’re going to deal with alcoholism, deal with drug addiction, and all that physical violence, and all the stuff we do to each other, we have to start seeing how we all fit back together. It’s simple to say, but it’s sort of like eating a hippopotamus—you got to do it one bite at a time, because we can’t do it all in one shot. It’s taken us a few hundred years to get here. But we have it in us to do it. It’s here, the Xaahl, the Xaahl, my Spirit, it’s right here, but we have it in there. And when you feel that empty hurt feeling, push it out, because it means you gave up your power. We have to learn again about competition, how instead of me trying to run faster than you, if I know I’m faster than you, I’ll run a little bit behind you to make you run faster rather than trying to beat you.
01:01:04 – Concluding
Anyway, that’s about the short version. (laughing) Anyway, those are the things that I think about sometimes and things I talk about with Elders sometimes.
01:01:19 – Taking the blame off of youth, each person taking responsibility
Quite often, a big part of our problem too is, we don’t listen to our kids. When I was a kid, we’d come in a room where there were a bunch of old people were sitting, and they’d stop what they were doing and say maybe these small ones have something to tell us. You know, a lot of Elders blamed the young ones, saying it’s your fault you don’t know your language. It’s your fault you’re a drug addict, it’s your fault you’re on Welfare, it’s your fault, it’s your fault. We didn’t teach them. They’re exactly what we taught them to be. If we don’t give them anything to work with, they’re not going to be anything but what they are. The responsibility comes back to us, but we have to start healing ourselves too. Nobody’s going to give it to us. We have to want it, we have to go get it. It’s got to start there. Like with me, I wasn’t any better than anyone else, I just wanted to stop hurting and I wanted to stop being violent. I just wanted to be a person, I just wanted to feel happy. Because I would laugh and joke, but inside, you better not scratch me, because in an instant it would turn from one way to total rage. So I think that’s where it lies.
01:02:46 – Strategy for slowing down, finding your Spirit
Each one of us has to, again, be able to see it, and there’s a very simple way that you can start learning it. It was all part of when I was being taught to be a storyteller. If you’ve got a place where you can go and sit down and you’ve got trees and grass and it’s not noisy. Go there and sit down and, well, it’s like in the film business. 1st AD says, roll sound! So just close your eyes and turn on the tape recorder. Don’t try to hear anything, just listen for everything, any sounds, whatever sounds are there, just sit there and listen. And don’t let your mind analyze anything, just sit there quiet, don’t think about anything. And then when you’re ready, 1st AD will say, roll camera! And now you’re doing an establishing shot. The camera just panning across, just looking, to see what’s there. And that’s what you do, just look, to see what’s there. You don’t analyze anything. Your mind will take you to certain things because of sounds, but don’t pause there, just look. Take your time, look at things, and when you’re ready, leave. Next day, few days later, sit down, do it again. And do it again and again and again. It’ll slow you down, that’s what you got to do, slow down. But we keep trying to go faster and faster and faster and faster. But the other thing you get from that is after a while, now that you’ve seen everything, you start looking again, and now you’re looking at the details. You begin seeing things that you didn’t realize, and after a while, you’re absolutely amazed at the things you can see, and you begin to feel like you’re part of it. But even more surprising is you begin to see what’s not supposed to be there. And once you can see what’s not supposed to be there, now you know that your Spirit can come back. You’ve given her a place to come back to. You sitting there with the power that’s always there, [????], all the things that our ancestors learned, they’re here, we just have to be able to see them, to be able to hear them, to be able to ask for them. Because until we do that, we’re just going to watch other people.
01:05:26 – Stories about learning from people
It’s like teenagers learning about sex from other teenagers. Sure, they can get by, but there’s a whole world they’re missing, because they haven’t learned that there’s certain things. It’s like, we’re doing some improv at an acting class and this woman is doing this improv about teaching her daughter how to cook something. And she’s holding a box of something, saying, well how do I do this. She said, read the instructions. You mean I’ve got to teach you to read before I teach you to cook? Well, maybe that’s what you have to do. Well I’ll tell you one more that I heard from this old man. He was talking about these two friends. One old man had a grandson who would visit him everyday and there was something in a catalog and this kid kept looking at it, so one day this old man looked and then he sent away for that thing and when it came, he sat it down there, and his grandson opened a box and was so happy, and there were hundreds of parts in there. Well he opened it first and he saw all those parts but he didn’t know how to put it together so he went next door and asked this white guy, this engineer, to help him. So the guy came and he read all the instructions and it took him a couple hours to put this whole thing together. Grandson came, he set it there, grandson was really happy, and the first thing he did was take it all a part, and then he left, and the old man thought, gee, what am I going to do. He didn’t want to go ask his neighbor again. So his friend came by and he was just sitting there and he said, what’s wrong? Where are you? So he told him about that toy. He said, let me see that thing. So he went and got it, showed him that box, and he said here’s the instructions. He said I don’t need that thing. He said that fellow over there, that engineer, he had to read it a long time. He said I don’t need it. After looking at the picture, about twenty minutes, he had the whole thing put together. He said, gee, how’d you do that? The other guy had to read all that stuff. (laughing) I guess if you can’t read, you got to learn how to think. We’ll leave it at that.
Start of Storytelling segment for radio.
I guess people call me a storyteller because I’m always telling stories. But when you grow up in a tribal society, everybody tells stories. You know? I have a cousin, that guy, he can tell a story. I mean, he really brings a story alive. See, the difference between our storytelling and Europeans is European storytelling is really acting. You know, if they tell a story about the three bears, you know Papa bear has one voice (speaks in a low pitch), Momma bear has a different voice (speaks in a high pitch). So they change the voices and we don’t do that.
But, a lot of times, we use the dialogue of both characters without saying…like my cousin was telling, one day he was sweeping the floor in the hall there at home and there was two ladies there and one of them, she had short sleeves on, she was sitting there like this (gesture) and she had bruises on her arms and this old lady, she saw the bruises and she said “What happened?!” “I fell off the wagon.” “Yea, how did that happen?” (laughs) Cousin had to run outside to laugh you know. But I mean, he would tell the story like that, he would just change characters so you knew which one was talking but it is the same with animals, but we don’t use a squeaky voice for a mouse, a bigger voice for a bear, a voice for a butterfly, a voice for raven. And we don’t… in our world, there is no line between the physical world and the metaphysical world. They are all one. It’s your ability to see it, and also your ability to see history.
See, the past is in front of me. I can see it over there so everything that happened since we came into being as humans, I can see it from here and whatever happened at that place over there, my job is to take you over there to experience that thing.
When I would sit with the old men, I was three years old when my grandfather took me to them. He introduced me to them and there was always a fire. There was a pot belly stove, a wood burning stove.
It was winter time after Christmas and we had a store there in the village. It was a co-op owned by all the people in the village, they all had shares in it, a hybrid trading company. I don’t know how many light bulbs were in there, but I remember seeing one. When I went in there with my grandfather, it was bright sunlight and you walk into this huge cavernous thing because instead of a ceiling, there were balconies on each side and a real high ceiling and then this wire came down with a light bulb on it and that was the light in there, except what came from the windows, and these old men would sit by the stove.
So my grandfather would take me, my [???] they call it [???], my grandfather, introduced me to those old men. And so he would take me there every day and they were really my babysitters because they would feed me. If my diaper needed changing, they would change me. I was only three years old, so I don’t know if I was still in diapers or not, but anyway, I can remember falling asleep sitting on my grandfather’s lap with my ear against his chest. Then later when my children were small, I would tell them stories and they would put their ear against me and the vibration from my voice would put them to sleep.
I can remember all of us kids, you know there were a lot of grandchildren, those of us that remember him, who were old enough to remember him, can remember being upstairs in their house and they had a louver in the ceiling so that the heat could come up from the stove. We would lay by that thing and listen to my grandfather and the other old men when they were talking and their voices would kind of resonate like mine.
In fact, our mothers, they were…there were five of us cousins, well, my brother and I and my then my… well the three bothers there, and then two other cousins… when we were sitting and talking, our own mothers could not tell which one of us was talking because our voices all sound the same. But then as we got older, then they could tell, so the voice is a big part of it…of how to use the voice.
So, I would listen and to me, it was always a pleasant experience to be around those men; it was always very relaxing. I can remember, and I didn’t know if I remembered it or whether I dreamed it or what it was.
But when I was living in Alberta, and I start going through this healing, and all this stuff started coming back to me, I sat down and I wrote out what I remembered and I mailed it to an aunt and then I went back home and my grandmother was still there.
It was…no, I think I talked to her before I went to that healing because I was beginning to remember and I asked her about it and she told me it was correct.
But, when I was sitting with those old men, this one old man in Haida, you know they would talk in Haida but they always made sure they watch so they didn’t get caught, and at one point they stop talking. It got quiet and I was sitting there on my grandfather’s lap and I was looking out the window. It got real quiet and the snowflakes were coming down and I swear I could hear those snowflakes coming down.
Then the store keeper came over and opened that stove and put some wood in it and closed it, but there was no sound. I don’t know why, but it was reminiscent of somebody putting their finger in water and taking it out, it had that much sound.
And then that old man said, “My mind is one. Let’s go [???].” And it was like the world disappeared. I’m a little bit afraid to tell it because people will think I’m crazy. Anyway, it’s like the world disappeared. It was like a warm blanket wrapped around me and they took me on a journey. They said they were taking me to meet my relatives and we traveled, I guess to outer-space.
Then all of a sudden it stopped. My grandfather didn’t go with us. He stayed behind. They always leave somebody behind, so he got some place to come back. I was sitting on my grandfather’s lap.
And anyway, it was like the air was churning. And then when it quieted down, another old man started talking and we did something else. Anyway, at the end of it, there was no world except that stove, I mean that fire. I could hear that fire. At first I could hear it, it sounded like it was talking to us in Haida. It was talking Haida. It was talking to us, then it got quiet.
But anyway, when we came back, there was still that silence, but it was very comfortable. I remember turning my head and looking like this (gesture), and there was my mother, but just the front half of her. It was like there was a fog and just half of her was showing through it. My [???] set me on the floor and said “return to your mother” and everything went back the way it was.
From then on, my grandfather didn’t go there very often. This was end of December, early January, 1945, 1946. My grandfather died that spring. But I would go back and that’s when they would ask me “What did you see? What did you learn?” When I was walking there I didn’t see anything, I didn’t learn anything, but I would tell them what I saw.
And that’s when I began to realize not only could I see what is supposed to be there, but I could see what wasn’t supposed to be there. So they would do little things. I would sit there and this old man would say “[???];” “I’m going to show you something.” [???] “Prepare yourself.” So I would scoot down like this. I would put my hands here, close my eyes, clear my mind, slow my breathing down, and then when I was ready, I would say “[???]; I am prepared. My mind is clear.”
And that person would start talking and it was like watching a movie. The language was very, very descriptive. But, it was like I would go inside his mouth and I would become part of that story. So I experienced it rather than hearing it.
So then my responsibility as a storyteller would be to do the same thing for you; to take you over there to experience it so now you will remember it as experienced it rather than heard it. And so they would always say “I ‘m going to show you something” and then they would start, rather than “I’m going to tell you something.”
So that was the whole beginning of it and from then on when somebody else was telling a story, you would clear your mind and you would never make a sound. If you make a sound, you cut that person’s life. They signal when they are ready. So you had to learn to watch for their body language and things which signal it is OK to say something. You don’t ask questions because if there is a blank in a story that means that is going to be filled with another story.
So, when I would go among other people, it was pretty much the same. It didn’t matter if I was in New Zealand, or I was talking to someone from Patagonia, in South America, or that guy from West Africa, the Sami people when I was up in Northern Sweden, or the Inuit or in Alaska… Eskimo…
There was a weather guesser, this man who could tell the weather. I would sit and listen to him, but again, you are watching that body language. They give you all the cues, and so when you walk in that room, you don’t say anything. You wait for the cue. Then you proceed how ever they tell you.
Then true storytelling… I think the best training for it is just to sit and stare out the window and look at the clouds. You know? Your imagination has to be fed. You have to feed that imagination.
If you are just going to memorize things, all you are doing is feeding that baby bird. You are just regurgitating something. You know?
But, if you sing that song, that person is going to learn that song. They are going to experience it and know how it feels. But if you just give them the words, they don’t know the song.
Everything has a rhythm to it…all the languages. You know, one of the problems we have to us because of this pow-wow culture, you know it is a great thing that people can get together and they can feel a part of it, but it is still that individuality thing, where they put numbers on you and you compete against each other. But, just because I don’t get involved in it, I’m not saying its wrong; that you should not do that.
What I am saying is that as each people came into being, each was put on land that looks like them. They were given a language that sounds like that land. It describes that land and the relationship between me and all those things, and it was given a ceremony that helps me relate to the power of that land.
So my land is exactly where it is supposed to be. When I come to your land, there is a different power, so now we do your ceremony. When you come to my land, we do my ceremony. Maybe there is something from my land I have to take care of and I’m on your land, I tell you this is the problem I am having or this is the thing I have to do.
Do I have your permission to do my ceremony on your land? I have that rock in my pocket I bring with me so that my land is with me. But I need your permission, not only to do my ceremony, but to have permission to be here. So when you give me that permission, then I can sing that song, I can dance that dance, I can do all those things. But first I must get permission to be there and to do that.
So now, one old Dakota man told me, his name was Pete [???] from Pine Ridge, South Dakota. He said lots of our young people are mixing medicines and they are causing a lot of the disruption by mixing medicines. They don’t ask anybody, “what is your ceremony? I’m on you land, what are your ceremonies? How do I do that? How do I fit in?” So, I guess that is what I know about storytelling, is that you have to be by it all the time. You have to fit into the rhythm of it, sit by that person until your heart beets together, that you are one with it, you are in it.
01:25:26 How do you collect stories?
Well, its part of …well, there are different ways in which we do that. Sometimes, if I name the person, like in a history, it’s because there is only one person who observed it. That person knows that, so I name that person. But if it is a story that there is many involved in, then we don’t pass on the name of the teacher, because the lesson is more important than the teacher. That is that person’s mind that I am giving you (laughs). I guess I put it that way.
Like my cousin, when he tells a story, that is his story, it belongs to him and I have to acknowledge that. When I name that person, other people have heard that story, they know it is going to be a good story. He is a good storyteller.
01:26:56 Categories of stories
Well, certain stories were only told at certain times of the year. That is not the area I was trained in.
What I was trained in was the actual history, the oral history. From the oral history, is where the mythology comes from. That mythology contains the lessons to learn from that history, and so some of them are attached to certain times of year or they are attached to certain things you are going to do.
I might tell you a story about salmon so that you understand that when we go out… is that I am never going to tell you I’m going out to hunt for deer. I’m never going to tell you I’m going to get a fish.
In Haida, I tell you I am going to take a look because if I name that thing, I am saying that it has no say in this relationship. But if it presents itself, I take the gift. So there is this relationship; we have to maintain that.
So animal stories, stories about the weather, you can’t really categorize them those ways because in English, comes from Latin. And almost everything in nature is labeled by a physical description that is described in Latin and so this plant looks like that plant and so they are related. But ours is a conceptual description. Like a sea lion and a tree; we use the same word for them. A clam, a doorway, a ladder- we use the same word for those things. A pillow, a tree, a sinker on a fishing line- they all have the same name, but that is not their name. [???] is not a pillow, a sinker or a tree, [???] is something that permits the mind to go down into another reality when you put your head on a pillow, you put that sinker into the water, you make medicine from that tree. [???] isn’t a clam, it isn’t a doorway, it isn’t that road, it isn’t a ladder; it leads you to a certain point.
So, I don’t know how they came up with those specific things that will do that, whereas other things won’t. So when we come up with categories, they have to be consistent with what is in our conceptual language.
Like where Rose is from, I lived in a village for a few years. They had things like certain bones from certain animals; like a beaver, a muskrat. They put it back in the water because that is where it comes from. Certain ones were put under a tree, so that you didn’t walk on them. So there were certain things like that. Certain things you didn’t talk about at certain times because they are going through some kind of change or whatever. Something is happening with those beings, so you didn’t talk about them at that time. In Haida, we can call it something like (interruption)….
You know, another part of history in Haida is the eyes. I don’t know what it is, but if you look at Haida carvings, you will see that the eyes are always prominent. They would joke about things like if you are going to catch that fish over there, you have got to watch the eyes.
They would talk about that thing, you don’t make eye contact with the humans.. Anyways, the whole thing with the eyes, in a way your eyes are really the least trustworthy. Your eyes can lead you astray sometimes because sometimes they see what it is they are expecting to see or they will misinterpret what they see. If you learn to use all five senses at the same time, that is the sixth sense. To where now you can taste something before you can see it, you can feel it, you can sense it before you can hear it. So, with storytelling, that is all a part of it. You have to put yourself into that, that round hole in the water where it is quiet and still.