Gildas is a Kwakwala name given to the symbolic box that holds each family’s Cultural Treasures – our songs, dances, masks, regalia and stories.
Chief Dan Henderson and his son Junior Henderson, who came from the Laichwiltach and the Nakwaxada’xw Nations, have graciously consented to open their Gildas, to allow us to to share their family’s privileges with you, our guests.
Guests of the Kwanwatsi Big House will witness two major ceremonies of the Potlatch Ceremony, and the C’eqa (pronounced Tseh-kha) or Red Cedar Bark Ceremony; and the Klasala (pronounced Kla-sa-la or Peace/Feather Dance Ceremony.
Our program begins with the Hamat’sa, the name of a Kwakwaka’wakw secret society. In practice the Hamatsa initiate, almost always a young man, is abducted by members of the Hamatsa society and kept in the forest in a secret location where he is instructed in the mysteries of the society.
Then at a winter dance festival, to which many clans and neighbouring tribes are invited, the spirit of the man-eating giant is evoked and the initiate is brought in wearing spruce bows and gnashing his teeth and even biting members of the audience. Many dances ensue, as the tale of Baxbaxwalanuksiwe is recounted, and all of the giant man-eating birds dance around the fire.
The next dance is the Ladies Professional Dance which in our language is called Yu’we-le’Nulth. It is performed directly after the Hamat’sa finishes dancing. The hand movements of the women in the dance are the same movements that the Hamat’sa makes when dancing-acting out the words of the song that describe the supernatural powers of the Hamat’sa. In earlier times, and still today, the host Chief will invite the ladies from each of the tribes to dance to the song from their village. He does this to honour the role women play in society.
Giant woman of the woods is next. This dance relates to the legend of how Dzunuqwa lurked at the forest edge, searching for the children who disobeyed their parents. The moral of the story is for the children to listen to their parents, and for parents to mind their children, or harm will come of them.
The Weather Dance
Next is the Weather Dance, Dance of the Day. The song tells us how the dancer has been all over the world and has experienced many different types of weather. The hand movements of the dancer represent the weather. The headdresses represent the night and the day.
At this point we “roll over,” as our people say and begin the Klasala ceremony. The first dance to introduce the Klasala is the Koylik’alath (pronounced Hoy-lee-kya-lath), meaning “the healer.”
The dancer appears in full dress, wearing his ceremonial blanket and apron, holding a rattle, and wearing a headdress crowned in sea lion whiskers, and draped with a robe of ermine fur.
He dances to two songs and returns to the back of the dance screen. Next two or three dancers appear in the same dress, minus the rattles, to perform the Klasala.
The ceremony attendant appears from behind the dance screen and begins to harass a dancer. The dancer becomes offended and runs behind the dance screen and transforms into a glugwey or supernatural treasure.
The Bakwas (pronounced Bak-was) then appears. He moves about the dance floor in a shy manner, shielding his face from the audience. Searching for cockles, his favourite food. Once he finds enough, he runs behind the dance screen.
To close, we invite the audience to join the dancers to perform a “fun dance” or a Amlala.
For more information, please contact:
Laichwiltach Cultural Group
Terri Henderson, Coordinator
Lorraine Henderson, Coordinator
1400 Weiwaikum Road
Campbell River BC V9W 5W8
Telephone: (250) 286-6949 or (250) 202-0747