Ancestral Knowledge

"The search and the honouring of the truth that is within the different perspectives of everyone."



On Communication

"Tribal styles of communications are mis-understood in today's world."

Daisy Sewid-Smith, Kwakwaka ‘wakw

Our silence, which is something that again the untrained or the young people will not understand today, that disapproval in our custom and our tradition, is to be silent. If you want to do something, and everybody's silent, or if you said something and what you said was not good, everybody would be silent. And if you know the traditions and customs, you would know that means disapproval. They did not like what you said. But if you said something that was good and correct and done something well, they'll let you know. They'll say, 'That is wonderful. I am so glad you said that, or I'm so glad you did that.' You will hear that.

But silence has now been interpreted as the European silence, of approval. And that's what the untrained and young people now are thinking that that's what [silence] means, but it means the opposite among our people. And it's surprising that trained people, [we] can talk to each other just by facial expressions and our eyes or in our hands, without saying a word. It'll be just a mannerism, body language. And you see a lot of that when a person or untrained person says something that's so untraditional or not part of the custom. And you'll see a lot of the old people doing that. And their silence doesn't mean they approve, it means they disapprove. Otherwise they would have verbally told you they approve. So that's what kind of misconceptions are out there.


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Future Generations

For Future Generations

"Customary laws of personal conduct within our tribes and nations helped us to remember to be honest with ourselves and with others."

Chief Adam Dick, - Kwakwaka ‘wakw

The drugs are the one that's really killing the people. I guess it's all over. Nobody listens anymore. Nobody lectures these young people anymore. That's gone. The teaching's gone. 

When we were invited to go to a village, they'd tell somebody to put a fire on in the big houses and everybody goes. The whole tribe would get a lecture from the chiefs. If you do something wrong, you're going to shame your family name. You know, it's going to cost a lot of money to try and fix it. Well, we have to be very careful, whatever you do in your daily life. 

If you say something bad to the next person, you go apologize to him before the sun clips off the mountaintops. If you don't, you are going to be uncomfortable with it the rest of your life. You'd hear this constantly every day.

But you don't hear these things anymore. No. There's no lecturing these young people anymore. They just clean up after work and they go to the bar and they stay there until they are a different person. I know what I'm talking about because I was there. I was there myself. It really hurts my feelings, when we have ceremonies. They are selling drugs right inside that house. You know, and that really cuts your heart in half. I'm standing there, trying to lecture my people, and they are selling them right there because they have no respect anymore. They don't even respect the culture. They don't even respect themselves, anymore. And that's the biggest problem we got. 

I don't know how we will straighten it. I think we are losing ground on this drug. We're losing it. And a couple of the young people barely alive now in the hospital for that reason.


Mary Thomas, Shuswap

It really frightens me as to what's going on today. Our people are so lost. There are so few Elders that will share, because we've been damaged by alcohol. Many diseases that were unheard of like chicken pox, small pox, and tuberculosis have damaged us. All these contagious diseases, those were unheard of in our society. Now drugs and alcohol, and our people our struggling. So few Elders are willing to share, or even have the knowledge. So few are left.

I know I'm always full of fear. That's why I'm not pushing myself on anybody. I'll only share when I know they're ready for it.


Allan Pard, Piikani

I think it's really important for our people, the younger people and our people from all walks of like, to, to know what they're up against. To know there are problems, identify their problems so we could all help one another to work out our solutions, so that we as Indian people, in turn can live better lives. And our children can therefore live better lives, and benefit not only from that we can also benefit from how our ancestors benefited from the values, the language that they maintained. And those are the things we want to continue as we move forward in this, this modern world.


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Gender Roles

On Gender Roles

"Within each indigenous nation women carried out their roles that reflected their respect of their people."

Daisy Sewid-Smith, Kwak waka ‘wakw

Women find it strange for me to speak about women like this. Many of our women have completely broken protocol, taboo, custom, and tradition. They will, like I said to you before I am uncomfortable speaking before the chiefs, because that's the way we were trained. I was at my father's home when he used to call all the chiefs. I call real chiefs in earlier times. I was just little girl when I used to help serve them. But I used to like to take my time because I wanted to listen to what they had to say. Because women weren't, not all women were allowed to attend these meetings. Only certain women and they had to either have a potlatch position or they were very high ranking chiefs' wives. And even the women never spoke in those meetings unless they were asked to by the chiefs. And then, if a chief is speaking, a woman never interferes. 

If I'm talking with you and if a chief all of a sudden had something to say he will say something even before I am finished speaking and I have to stop speaking when he does this, because that's the way of our tradition or custom, that he must be heard. 

And many people, many women again, they have meetings before potlatch and only a handful of people are supposed to attend this potlatch. And only knowledgeable women are allowed to attend these potlatches.

Now you have very aggressive women barging in and saying, 'This is my right. I have a right to be here,' and completely monopolize the meeting, shutting out the voices of the chiefs, and they do that in the big house, and the decision is no longer made by the chiefs, it's made by the women. 

In the early days I used to hear the old chiefs say, 'How dare so-and-so get up and speak at the potlatch last night. Doesn't she know that she is not allowed to speak?' And that's in the big house during a potlatch. Today they completely monopolize everything. They make the decisions. They decide how things are going to happen. I know what has to happen at the big house, but never once do I sit down when my brother is going to have a potlatch and say this is what is going to happen, this is what we're going to do and you guys have to do it because I say so. Never have I done that. I will say, 'what are we going to do? What dances are we going to show?' Even though I may have more knowledge than my brother, he must have a voice. Then we all decide as a family what will be shown and what will be said and what will be given and how we're doing to do it. But in many cases today the women have complete control, and control everything. And the old chiefs call that a shameful act and I've heard it over and over as I was growing up.



"We are only as strong as the women in our communities."

Mary Thomas, Shuswap

The role of the parents, we question is why were there no jails? Because there was no need for jails cause there was no lawbreakers. How did they prevent that? It was because of the family circle a girl was taught from an early age, her role in the family as a woman. When she grew up you become a young woman, and your body is a giver of life you value that body. Don't go around flaunting it every time? You look after your body and make sure you are pure. And there were many certain things they had to do especially when they started menstruating, they were expected by the elders to swim morning and night. Keep their body clean. They were given medicine to clean their inside and when they became mothers the children they gave were strong healthy children.

And when you think of it you know, the things we ate was different, we ate healthy foods. So when a young woman starts bearing children if her body is healthy and pure, her children are going to be born strong and healthy and pure like herself. And the women was always was, especially the grandmothers I can say that now when my children need to discipline their children I have to really try and control myself not to butt in. As a grandmother I love my grandchildren dearly and I tend to get a little overprotective. The role of the woman was something that was really valued. And the medicines that we ate, I guess the biggest part was the food that we ate was the food that we took from the ground all had antibiotic in it. And when you are eating that as your daily diet. Your immune system stay in tact and you are healthy. Very seldom you know you lay down and "oh, I am sick. I lay down".



Oral Tradition


"Imagine the sacrifice our ancestors abided by for us in preserving the rules, codes, protocols and our prayers in order to keep our ceremonies, culture and traditions strong."

Allan Pard - Piikani

When you're in those kind of rules, codes, if we practice those and abide by those protocols, then our prayers and our ways become much more stronger. It's sort of, it's sort of like a sacrifice to maintain this, those rules and obligations. If you live by that, then you'll be able to help people with those bundles. But there's, there's uh, sacred public knowledge that could be public, and shared with the public but when it comes down to sacred knowledge, or transferred knowledge, it mean that in order to understand or share that information, the only way can acquire that is that you have to live it. You have to do it and make that obligation. It's just not information that's shared with the public.


"To learn about your culture is to go to the Elders. With their guidance and support they will teach you the ceremonial and traditional ways."

Jerry Potts - Piikani

When you, when you go out and you have the yearning to learn about who you are and where you come from, well, naturally you go to the elders and you do that. I know back in the days when they first started to do this stuff, to get involved with our ceremonial and traditional ways, we were very fortunate to still have some elders around that were able to guide us, and give us the right help to go into the direction. And I know, I was told, "well, if you gonna do something, you have to have a pipe.

And, with every step of learning you have to pay for it. That's one of the hard things that we have. Like even when we revived the Brave Dog Society, here on our reserve, it was inactive for forty-five years. And you go and you hear somebody, you approach an elder, and they got one of the ceremonial pieces, and they say, "Well, I paid fifty head of horses for that." Yeah, here we are, like the economy we live in, the state we live in and a lot of times it's the people that, that work towards this stuff. It's not like the old days, where you had five hundred head of horses out in the back year, and you tell somebody, "Yeah, well, you go over there and fifty of them horses are yours, for the take." Because they paid from their heart but they knew the value of it, because they knew when they transferred it, they were going to be getting some that stuff back as well too.



"The tools we use to send our prayers to the Creator assists us in our journey of life."

Joe P. Cardinal - Cree

It has a good message. That's the way I take sweet grass. Try to ease that mind, that spirit within us. That's the way I believe it. Maybe the next guy believes it differently. We say we purify the mind and the spirit and I really believe in that. God speaks to us in here [the heart] we feel it here [the heart]. We do not hear his voice, but we hear through here [the heart]. Sometimes we don't feel right, we don't think right. We use the sweet grass so that it would be more meaningful. That message will be more meaningful. I will understand it. I will deal with it the best way I can, something that I have to deal with. So my feeling is it's good sometimes.



"Using what we have been given in the right way will lead to collaboration."

Allan Pard - Piikani

For the Blackfoot people, it came for, it came to us thousands of years ago, to make pipes and to start using tobacco, and growing tobacco. We're one of the few tribes that grew tobacco and have a sacred tobacco. The Creator, in giving us the pipe, the use of pipes and tobacco, gave us the instructions that in using the pipe with our prayers, our prayers would be heard. So that's why we use the pipe, that's why the pipe is so significant to us people cause it helps with our prayers. So over time, the use of tobacco and pipes to help us become successful and wealthy, and over time, it was just not practical to be carrying your pipes around. It was sometimes even more practical to send tobacco to symbolize the use of the pipe. So, when you're approaching an Elder, for something culturally significant, the protocol is when you can bring your pipe to him and offer him your pipe, he cannot refuse your request. So in the regard to him, we're offering the gift of tobacco. It's in a sense offering the pipe to a person so therefore we're expecting cooperation, collaboration.