Tl'ihtl'aa Photo

Approaching the beach of Tl’ihtl’aa through the thick tunnel of Sitka and cedar that lines the trail, it first emerges as a refreshing breeze and then a breathe taking vista of the white sand and turquoise water breaks through the trees. The sign-post at the trail head Ahousaht artist Qwaya Sam’s carving of the legend of Tl’hitl’aa (Tl’ihtl’aa means red rocks). The red rocks contain an abundance of marine invertebrates and the beach at Tl’hitl’aa is a traditional foraging ground for shellfish and intertidal food. The rocks face westerly and are exposed to the open Pacific Ocean where the wave fetch is uninterrupted for five thousand miles from the coast of Japan. Winter swells bring waves up to 12 m high that create a large, flourishing intertidal zone. Tu’cup (urchin), ca?inwa (gooseneck barnacle), huupisi (horse clam) and during spawning season kw’aqmis (herring eggs) are just a few of the favorite traditional foods that are abundant and easy to find here at low tide. Turn over any rock along the shoreline at low tide and you will find baby crabs that can easily be scooped up and examined. Historically, before they became endangered as a result of overhunting and pollution, sperm whales were hunted from the rocks at here, where they would come to feed among the kelp beds.

Story: Tl’ihtl’aa

The artwork in carving of the Tl’ihtl’aa signpost tells the story how Tl’ihtl’aa –which means “red rocks”— got its name. The carving is of a young woman with beautiful red on the rocks as Naas (the Creator) blows a great wind. The red-haired woman is said to be the wife of a man who went to sea for a whale hunt and was never to return. The red-haired woman sat on the rocks of this beach waiting for his return, and the spirit of her husband knew she was suffering. Her husbands spirit asked Naas to send her a message that he would not return and that she must abandon her vigil. Naas sent a great wind as a message, but the woman would not leave. The great wind continued to blow, more and more powerfully but the woman still would not leave. Finally Naas’ wind blew became so great that the woman’s beautiful red hair flew all over the rocks, turning them red forever. Some of the Ahousaht believe that is was the faith and devotion of the red-haired woman that brought the fecundity of intertidal life to Tl’hitl’aa (Sam, S. 1997).

Activity: Deers Ears

This activity is derived from Thom Henley’s rediscovery curriculum. It is done in a group and requires one blindfold. The purpose of this activity is to enliven our senses in the wild. It helps participants become more aware of how they move their bodies as they move through the forest and gain a better sense of the sounds they make. The activity also provides consideration to how the cycle of predation works within wild ecosystems.

One member of the group will be selected to take the role of the deer. This person will be blindfolded and will be asked to count to 10-50 (depending on the size of the space this activity is being done in). While the deer counts, its ‘predators’ will hide in various spots around her, being mindful not to hide to closely to other predators. When the deer finishes counting, the predators will be still and quiet. The aim of the game is for the predators to reach the deer before she hears them. As soon as the predators begin to move, the deer will point whatever direction she hears movement and yell “starve”. If the deer points to a predator, then they are out. If a predator reaches the deer, the round is over and a new round will begin with the winning predator taking the role of the deer.

Activity: Drift Wood Alchemy

This is a short activity that can be played over lunch or while waiting for weather to pass. It is a great activity for young children or adults who need to reconnect with their imaginations. As a group together in one place, chose a nearby piece of driftwood. The group will pretend that all of the driftwood around them was once living creatures or working machines, and that by guessing their original form they can be brought back to life or function. One person will be selected as the ‘alchemist’ and that person will decide what the pervious incarnation of the driftwood was, but they will keep it a secret and the rest of the group will have to guess using only yes or no questions. The person who guess correctly becomes the next ‘alchemist’ and gets to choose the next piece of driftwood to liberate.

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