Editor’s Note: This is part one hundred seventy-five of a series of testimonies given by our aboriginal neighbors. We are posting these in an attempt to allow everyone to better understand just how badly Canada has neglected the first nations of Canada. These are the words submitted to the JRP Hearings, to Enbridge and to the Government of Canada.
ORAL STATEMENT BY MS. BENITA DUNCAN MASON
MS. BENITA DUNCAN MASON: My name is Benita Duncan Mason. I am a Grade 12 student at Kitasoo Community School. My family is of the Kitasoo/Xai’xais Nation. I was raised here in Klemtu.
I am the eldest granddaughter of Edna Mason and Chief Haay-maas Niis’muu-tk, Ernest Mason, Jr. My parents are Deanna and Robert Duncan, and I have three younger siblings, Rachelle, Roberta and Dean.
My grandfather first introduced my cousins, Natasha and Alyssa, my sister, Rachelle, and myself to traditional dancing about seven years ago. I am a member of the Spirit Bear Dance Group. My grandpa also taught me many other things about my culture.
He told me about the preparation and importance of a potlatch. He also told me that in the early 1950s the ban for the potlaching was lifted. A potlatch is a community get-together that we have to celebrate many different things, for example, a tombstone feast, coming of age ceremony, passing of a Chief’s name, uplifting of babies, washing ceremonies, just to name a few.
It takes months for preparation to get ready for a potlatch. The person hosting the potlatch, along with family, harvest the food, prepares gifts to give the witnesses and organizes a schedule for the day.
While growing up I have helped my grandfather and my family prepare for potlaches, so I have learned how to harvest and preserve foods such as ts’ax, clams, chuwali, cockles, plus seaweed and miya, salmon, just to name a few. I’m still learning many different things about my culture.
Everything we do here revolves around the ocean and I would hate to lose everything we have. I believe that if we lose our seafood resources that our potlaches and other community gatherings would not be the same. So if anything devastating were to happen to our coastal waters, such as an oil spill, we’ll be left with pretty much nothing.
I’m Benita Duncan, and I do not support the pipeline and the supertankers.
THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much.
JLS ……For What It’s Worth