Monday, July 20, 2015

Native Connection at Metlakatla


For a more intimate connection with the locals at Metlakatla, we stopped at the main grocery store in town and picked up a few supplies.  We found the locals to be welcoming as we made our rounds through the streets and shops; the town reminded us of Mexico where things are not in the best of repair, but people seem to be happy here and very family oriented.  We also stopped by the “Market Place” which serves as a tourist office and center for displaying and selling local arts. 
I had read that Native dance performances are held at the Longhouse during the summer months when tour boats are in town.  As luck would have it, a boat tour from Ketchikan would be arriving that afternoon and a performance was scheduled to begin at 12:30pm.  Since we had arrived on our own boat, they asked that we provide a donation which we were pleased to do. 
The performance involved over a dozen people of all ages from 2 years old and up, including great grandma.  The little ones in costume were adorable and knew exactly what to do; the little 2 year old boy tapped his staff on the floor with the men while the little girl of 2 years followed the motions of the women. 
Older children around 7 years and 10 years old along with teenagers participated in various dances which included drums and paddles.  The elders had more elaborate costumes, providing leadership and narration.  It was all quite casual but very well done; at the beginning only a few dancers appeared, and then more and more dancers trickled into the scene.

In ancient Tsimshian culture there were several individual tribes, each with its own chief and governing council.  Within the tribes were four major clans:  the Eagle (lachsgeek), the Raven (gunhada), the Wolf (lachgeebuu), and the Killer Whale (gisbuutwada).  Towards the end of the performance, the audience was asked to join in and move with the dancers in a circle copying their motions. 
It was quite moving for me, I felt a special connection with my background of Native Lakota heritage.

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