Wo'Aihsi (The Bridge)

Wo'Aihsi (The Bridge) Photo

This is a sacred site that holds significance regarding the historical war between the Otsosaht and the Ahousaht (see the link “Cultural Histories”). At the east edge of the bridge there are two signposts, one leading towards the “Trail of Tears” and the other leading towards Kutcous point. This is a spot where guides who are connected with the land have been able to hear the songs of their ancestors being sang by the forest. The cross-roads at the bridge offers paths to two very different places, making this a spot where people may be invited to reflect on how the choices we make, as individuals and as societies, can also lead us to very different directions. As the history, energy and spirits are powerful here, this is an ideal spot for silence and reflection. Because the bridge is located deep in the estuary it is an excellent spot to see birds such as Haunus (Great Blue Heron), em-waatz (Osprey) and Too-mook (Kingfisher). If you are very quiet, you might also spot qʷayac̕iik (wolves), who often come into the estuary to hunt.

Let the Forest Speak

Ask every group member to find a spot in the forest where they cannot see anyone else. Once they are there, ask each participant to choose one very small piece of the nature around them, small enough that it could be framed by touching opposite thumbs and index fingers. Give participants five minutes to look at this small piece of land, ask them to find beauty in something they have never noticed before (such as the leaves of moss or the intricacy of a fern fiddlehead). After five minutes, whistling to signal that they should shift their attention inwards. Once their attention has been directed towards themselves, ask them to consider the aspects of themselves that they find strength or beauty in. Encourage to consider their ways of being as though they lived in a wild ecosystem, what traits would help them acquire food, raise babies, outsmart predators? What kind of animal would they relate themselves to if were to become a creature that lived in this ecosystem? After 15 minutes of reflection, ask the group to reconvene. Once the group has settled in together ask each participant to share the place they found beauty and share animal they most resemble in this ecosystem and the reasons why they think so. After every member of the group has shared ask the group to consider how they can use this greater understanding of their own traits and personality styles in their life at home to be cope with different situations. When should they let their wolf traits come out and when should they take a different approach? This activity is very helpful as a starting point to discuss group behavior and expectations. It is also a powerful activity from which to reflect on the power of individuals to direct the outcomes of their circumstances through the choices they choose to make.

Story: Never Point at a Heron

For many years my teacher and mentor Qaamina Sam scolded me whenever I pointed at a Great Blue Heron to show my guests. He always smiled his trickster smile when he told me never to point at a heron, so I was never certain whether he was just teasing me or if he was serious. After travelling to other parts of the coast and hearing the same thing from people from other First Nations I decided I needed to know the whole story. When I asked Qaamina about why I should never point at a heron, he smiled and said, “finally you ask”. Qaamina told me that ever since he was young the elders shared a story teaching that it brings bad luck to point at herons. In the story, the heron is mocked for its long, gangly neck and loud, screeching call. The animals who tease the heron in the story bring back luck onto themselves through their cruelty and disrespect towards the heron. The moral of this story is to teach children never to point at or tease people who look different or act strange. This story is meant to teach children to be kind to others, because if they are unkind they will bring bad luck upon themselves through their actions.

The Bridge LinkCultural History