February 4, 2020
By Jordan Cryderman
On a mild January evening in Nadleh, a new generation is being welcomed into the community with a traditional ceremony. To many, it is the revival of an age-old practice, one that the new babies of Nadleh are now growing up with.
20 babies are being embraced by the community as part of the Baby Welcoming ceremony in Nadleh Whuten. Any child born in the past year is being honoured – from newborns to babies now taking their first steps.
Karen George, Community Health Representative at the Nadleh Health Clinic, says that it is important to familiarize the newborn babies and the community.
“We believe babies are our future generation, and it takes a community to raise a child, and I believe our community is very strong in that way. We will support and do everything we can for our children. … As a community, we are all parents for that child.”
Amber George looks on with her baby, Gracie Elizabeth Sam, and sees the children that her daughter will grow up with.
“It’s exciting just to know we’re going to be watching them grow up along with our babies … It’s comforting… If I’m not there, I’ll always know someone else is there [for my children].”
As each child enters the large gymnasium, elder Roy Nooski performs a smudge. Everyone gathers around spruce boughs at the centre of the gym in their respective clans, where each clan leader welcomes the babies and pledges to care for them. Each baby is then gifted a hand-stitched star blanket. Each blanket has been handstitched by members of the child’s own family – grandmothers, aunts and cousins.
Each baby is then bestowed with the strengths and characteristics of an animal, depending on their clan. Nooski says that the beaver tail, when touched across a child’s palm grants the child with a hard work ethic.
“Beaver tail, when they slap their hand they can be a hard worker. They can build house, but they’ll be shy in public, but they’ll be one of the best.”
To see more about using animal parts, read Rita George explain her experiences with it here.
An integral part of welcoming the babies to the community is introducing them to the elders at a young age. George says that learning from birth is key.
“The words that the elders share with these babies, they understand it. They learn from birth … When an elder speaks to a child, it’s beautiful to see the reaction on both the child and the elder’s face because they’re getting the love and connection through each other.”
Mary Teegee, Executive Director of Child and Family Services at CSFS, says it is important for CSFS to continue to provide financial support for events like these, not just for the child but for the well-being of the community.
“We find that many times when we have potlatches or feasts, we recognize and celebrate death, but many times we forget to celebrate life. So the welcoming babies ceremony was our way of saying ‘let’s revitalize that, that used to happen a long time ago.’”
Teegee says each nation does the Welcoming Babies ceremony in their own way, and it’s really exciting to see how each does it differently.
“Due to the impacts of colonization, the impacts of Residential School, our culture has been weakened, not lost but weakened, and this is a really important way to revitalize and celebrate who we are as Indigenous people. We are still here, we’re not going anywhere, and just by welcoming our babies is another way to solidify who we are as Indigenous people, and celebrate our Clan and celebrate who we are.”
Check out this video of the Nadleh Whut’en Baby Welcoming ceremony! Make sure you subscribe to the CSFS YouTube channel to keep up to date.
Last modified: Wednesday 27-Sep-17 04:14:39 PDT