I married into the Hesquiaht band and am originally from Ahousaht. I researched the Sabbas family history to find out what house we belonged to. After much frustration I spoke with hereditary Chief Michael Tom. After that there was a community dinner and Chief Tom and his family were serving the dinner so that they would have witnesses for what was to follow. His speaker explained in cuu-us what was happening. The Sabbas family that were present were stood up. Chief Tom had adopted the Sabbas family into his house. Gifts were given out, cuu-us names were given to the male Sabbas’ that where present. I am very proud to belong to Chief Tom’s house and have a real sense of belonging somewhere. We have an identity within the nation and can pass that down to our grandchildren. This is the beginning of history for our family and I will forever be grateful to Chief Tom and his house for doing what they did for us. Traditional adoptions were done historically and for Chief Tom to exercise his rights using traditional governance, we belong from this day forward.
I have a keen interest in culture such as dancing, crafts, foods, cedar bark picking (when to get it, how to pray while getting it, how to clean it and store it) and the different grass used for regalia and baskets. When we harvest cedar and the different grasses that we use it is a fulfilling day of teaching, learning, and bonding, sharing laughter and food as the ladies all are practising what historically was done. When doing the crafts I enjoy spending the time and have come to realize how much patience and emotional awareness it takes to get it done. I have been taught to not work on my cedar when I am emotional or on my moon cycle. I look forward to learning more and passing on what I learn.
Traditional foods are a part of who we are today. I was lucky that my mom taught me how to smoke fish and prepare fish. It is good to see young women learning how to clean, cut, smoke fish and make the fire for the smoke house which is different than making a regular fire. I learned the art of making salal berry jelly the old fashion way which is better than the new age ways of canning. I also know how to make bread and I think I have mastered the family secret of making bannock.
As for dancing my grandfather would have us practice at home while we were young. As part of the teaching we would have to learn the song then the dance. He would sing and we were expected to sing while we danced. If one of us made a mistake then we would start all over again. He wanted us to dance it perfectly when we were in public. I now realize what he was doing after all these years and it sticks with me to this day. It is important to learn how to take care of your regalia. Only wear it while dancing, learn how to fold it properly and store it. Another important thing I learned was how to dress the male dancers so they do not make a mistake and embarrass the hereditary chiefs. I also learned how to repair regalia when required and what supplies to have on hand.
I will continue to learn as much as I can so that I can pass these teachings on to the future generations. I encourage all to continue learning these sacred teachings and continue teaching the sacred teachings as it is life as a Nuu-chah-nulth.