Homalco First Nations Film Project
Youth from the Homalco First Nation helped create a documentary about their nation’s history and culture with the support of Homalco youth leader, Dorothy Paul, videographer, Glen Bytel and social work student and journalist, Kristen Carlson. Kristen shares the following of how she became involved with Homalco youth.
Moving back to Campbell River as an adult, I wanted to know how I could best contribute and participate in my community. As I connect with the wilderness-enjoying my return to the ocean and forests of my childhood, I feel acutely aware of how little I knew about the local First Nations interests and cultures that grow from this very landscape.
I met Dorothy Paul, the Homalco youth support worker, at an aboriginal social service providers meeting. She talked about wanting more recognition and involvement for Homalco First Nation in Campbell River, and was looking for collaborators to work with the Homalco youth group. I asked Dorothy how she’d like to involve youth in mapping Homalco’s place in our community.
Dorothy was excited about giving youth an opportunity to learn about and take pride in culture through the creation of a film. Glen Beitel, a Digital Film Producer and former instructor for the Art Institute of Vancouver, enthusiastically joined our team, and we sketched out a plan that would center around youth interviewing elders.
Recording elder interviews is a way of preserving traditional and historical knowledge. Individuals’ stories can be placed in a broader social context as First Nation communities move towards self-determination and autonomy. The ‘Idle No More’ movement has created an alliance between diverse Nations and an opportunity to come together on common interests and strengthen advocacy for First Nations groups Canada-wide.
The telling of peoples’ lived experiences helps to map out values and to help communities envision and create a shared future; individually and collectively. As well, this project provides an important perspective on Campbell River’s cultural landscape.
“One day they can show their kids and tell them: that’s when we began our journey to find who we’re supposed to be.” Dorothy Paul
The following is an interview of Dorothy Paul, youth support worker, on her perspective on creating the documentary film:
Hi Dorothy, can you describe the purpose of this film project?
The main purpose of this project was to use technology to spark youth’s interest in their culture. We wanted to get them talking to the elders, hearing our stories and learning who our people once were and who we can be once we practise our traditions. We also wanted it to help them connect with one another, to teach them to use their voices, and to be proud of something that they did together. One day they can show their kids and tell them “that’s when we began our journey to find who we’re supposed to be.”
We brought two youth from other nations here to share drumming and singing with us during the shooting of the film. Drew (Sliammon) and Jesse (Qualicum) came to show the kids that you can have it all. You can be cultural and modern at the same time.
Both of these young men are learning their language, and they are drummers, composers, carvers and canoe pullers. They are succeeding in college and on the flip side, they game out with their friends, watch hockey games and maintain other healthy relationships. They have the best of both worlds and are making their communities proud.
I know that the voices of the elders we filmed will be heard forever and their messages were so important! I am grateful that this project is so successful already. It really opened a lot of eyes and I’m sure will continue to open eyes in the future!
Can you tell us a bit about Homalco First Nation?
The Homalco reserve is located off of the Jubilee Parkway just below the airport. We began building here in about 1990. Our traditional territory is Bute Inlet which is about two hours east of Campbell River by boat.
We speak Coast Salish language same as two other nations that I like to call our “sibling nations”: Sliammon (Powell River) and Klahoose (Cortes Island). I like to call them sibling nations because a lot of our ancestors came from Bute Inlet. They spoke the same language and taught the same traditions. We say: Pa?a Kaimuex. It means “we are one”.
What are some of the issues concerning Homalco youth right now?
School, drugs, alcohol, depression, bullying. It’s the same as everywhere else, except its more out in the open because here everyone knows everyone else.
The people of my generation grew up here. We understand how difficult it can be to go to school and be labelled with that stereotype of “another Indian from the Rez.” Hearing it day in and day out, you get to the point where you figure, well they already think it’s true so why not drink, do drugs, and skip school?
They’re doing better though. Already we have kids graduating more often than not. And the number of members pursuing post secondary education is higher than ever. The kids are seeing that we as a nation are more and can be more than what we’ve become. We can do better, and we will; I’m certain of it.
What are some of the strengths of the youth you work with?
They have unbelievable spirit. They have an amazing sense of humour and are generous to a fault. The youth amaze me each and every day. The obstacles that they have already overcome with smiles on their faces shows me how strong they are. I feel really blessed to know each and every one of them. I look forward to seeing what they become as they grow into adults.
How would you like to see Homalco included in Campbell River as a whole?
We are taking steps to be included within the school district. My auntie/mentor Adeline Billows and I teach Coast Salish language at Southgate Middle School. Marion Harry teaches Coast Salish at Georgia Park. I hope to bring it to the high school level next year.
Rebecca Blaney, Corena Wilson and I teach drumming at Southgate and have participated in assemblies at Georgia Park and Penfield. We have performed for Discovery Marine Safaris (they bring people out for the ‘Bears of Bute’ which is run by Homalco Wildlife Tours).
We are beginning to make our presence known in the community. I look forward to expanding that as time goes on. Perhaps we will perform at an Aboriginal Day event, and maybe the museum and Canada Day celebrations. I just want us to be out there. We are proud to know more about our culture and are anxious to show it off.
What would you like the people of Campbell River to know about Homalco First Nation?
A lot of times I feel like Homalco is overlooked because we are such a small nation, especially in comparison to the much larger local nations. But we are here. We are strong and proud. Soon our presence will be felt.
Through the Warrior’s Eyes
I have seen those eyes, and through them I have seen their battles but they are not battles fought on a regular battle field. They are not battles fought hand to hand…they are different…they are hard to explain…but we will try.
The Homalco First Nations people like many First Nations people have had a history that at times has been quite difficult. It is not easy to talk about, but with the help of some Elders who went through it and some youth who want to understand it and learn from it we will try.
So as I listen to the youth talk about their lives I am surprised how positive they see things but it makes sense from their point of view. But when you hear the elders talk, they talk so highly of the past before the schools and how it will never be like that again…and how they wish their grandkids could have had that life. They don’t see that they have won a big part of the battle; they have given their kids a better life.”
Adeline: “Sometimes when you have had a bad experience in your life, an experience that is so horrible, so destructive, you find yourself constantly on the run. You never want to stop, you never want that feeling again, that helpless feeling and you never want those you love to experience it either. So you keep on running, grabbing the hands of those close by knowing you must save them too but still you are on the run, on the run from a time that some say, should be forgotten.”
Bob: “Those times are like mighty waters holding you, pulling you down in a battle of life and death. Like a bad dream you cannot move, you cannot swim. In your mind it is over; you know you have lost but why do you keep swimming? Why do you keep running? Then you look down to your right and down to your left and you see their eyes, you see their innocence and you know they are the reason, you know they must be saved. This battle goes on for a lifetime, never seeming to have an end. The warrior’s eyes begin to fade; they grow weary and very dark.”
Drew: “Then when you least expect it you are told… you can stop running. You are told you have won, you are told you have saved them. What you thought was still chasing you is now only a shadow. A shadow of what was real, what was evil, what was done.
When you are told to stop running, you want to know why. You want to know who says you can stop running, who says it is over… and then again you look down, again to your right and again to your left and your answer is in their eyes, it is in their innocence and it is in their voice …for you hear them say..you have saved us.”
Dorothy: “So now a new journey begins, a new battle, a battle to remember, remember the good and the bad, remember the bad so it will never happen again. Remember the good for it is what gave you strength. It is what you now can leave to them. This good,it is in the language, it is it the culture and yes it is in…you.”
So when you find yourself again in that dream, in those mighty waters, do not fear. Do not struggle, let yourself go, let the waters take you, for when in a tide you must first be pulled down before you can again rise, and you will rise again new, rise again stronger, wiser. So we thank you for you are that warrior and it was only through your eyes we could see our past so we have the strength to build our future….through the warrior’s eyes….through your eyes.
It may not be perfect and still needs to be worked on, but they need to know they have done well. They have run the race and now can pass on the baton to the next generation. They (the next generation) need to know and remember (I know this is what you want to say) so they can build a future without the bad and build it stronger because of the good.