Written by Nella Nelson
Illustrated by Karin Clark
Along the Pacific Northwest Coast, from Alaska through British Columbia to Washington, there are several related, yet diverse, aboriginal cultures (First Nations). Prior to contact with Europeans, these peoples had developed complex social systems, wide trade routes, economic prosperity, and one of the most complex art forms in the world. The Potlatch (traditional First Nations business) and the Winter Ceremonies are the vehicles for cultural connections all along the Coast. Our story-teller, Gana, explains, “My family has been planning this p`asa (Potlatch) for years and saving to buy gifts for our guests. In some ways, the p`asa is a lot like a party but instead of people bringing us gifts, we give gifts to everyone who comes. There are songs, dances, plays, and stories. But also, there are marriages, funerals, naming ceremonies, birth announcements, re-telling of our histories, reminders of our culture, wearing the outfits that our ancestors wore, showing and giving away blankets, large pieces of copper, tools, canoes, jewellery, masks, food, toys and other gifts. The family asks everyone who comes to remember everything they saw. That’s what the gifts are for. They are a kind of payment to remember. This custom comes from a time when my people didn’t write things down to remember them. People had very good memories. They told important facts and stories to their kids and their kid’s kids. Nowadays, I can read facts and stories in books, see them on DVD and movies, as well as hearing about them from my elders.”
I ordered the book, "Welcome Family and Friends to Our Bighouse," written by Nella Nelson and illustrated by Karin Clark, direct from Raven Publishing (and they deliver way faster than Amazon, by the way!)
The book has been a hit. My 8-year-old daughter is often fussy with books and sometimes loses interest, but this book was different. We have been reading the chapters before bedtime and she always looks forward to it. She is quite fascinated by this story about a young girl's experience of her family's pasa (potlatch) ceremony, and she listens intently. She also enjoys the unique illustrations which are colourful and lively and also have a photographic quality.
I think this is an ideal book for children because it is told in the words and the mind of a child. My two older children, 16 and 14, also enjoy learning about the vivid tradition of the Kwakwaka'wakw people. This book has inspired our family to look more deeply into our own traditions. I highly recommend this book, not only to families but also to schools. Thank you once again - Lisa Provedor