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Indigenous youth create monument to language, culture at Alberni event

Culture, language go hand in hand with Gathering Our Voices drum project

Participants from Gathering Our Voices have left a lasting impression on the Alberni Valley. More than 900 youth between the ages of 14–22 years and accompanying adults spent four days connecting with their culture through various workshops and cultural events.

One of those events has left a legacy: a handcarved drum.

The drum project brought together youth from GOV who worked on the carving from a log to a finished product in just two days.

“It was anyone who wanted to carve,” said Tim Masso, a language student from Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation on Vancouver Island’s west coast.

Hjalmer Wenstob, a contemporary Nuu-chah-nulth artist and Masso’s brother, put on the carving event, right from choosing the log to providing carving tools and overseeing the participants.

Wenstob, from Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, is taking a Masters of Visual Art at the University of Victoria with a focus on sculpture and installation. He also teaches sculpture. For two days outside the doors at the Alberni Athletic Hall, he guided people through carving and painting the drum.

The drum features two salmon, a male and a female; the female has 17 eggs in her belly, representing the 17 GOV conferences that have taken place.

“It’s really significant to the fact that all these youth are coming together and we’re carving this drum that brings together people in the future as well,” Masso explained.

“Our culture and language go hand in hand; you can’t have one without the other. This drum does really go well with my talk about language,” he said. Masso is in his second year of the Language Proficiency Program at the University of Victoria.

A linguist since he was 15, Masso is passionate about teaching Nuu-chah-nulth language to others. One day, he said at the GOV closing, he would like to see Nuu-chah-nulth language spoken in every home.

The drum was presented to the Port Alberni Friendship Centre and will be stored there for any nations to use. There are people from seven or eight First Nations that use the friendship centre, including Tseshaht and Hupacasath First Nations, whose territories are around Port Alberni and the Alberni Valley.

Many of those people come to the friendship centre to practice singing and dancing, and will be able to use the drum, he said.

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Tim Masso of Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, left, and other carvers present a drum that was carved from tree to finished product during Gathering Our Voices in the Alberni Valley last week. The drum was presented to Port Alberni Friendship Center. SUSAN QUINN PHOTO
Tim Masso of Tla-q-qui-aht First Nation on the west coast of Vancouver Island introduces a drum project that was completed during Gathering Our Voices in the Alberni Valley last week. SUSAN QUINN PHOTO
Tim Masso of Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation places handmade drumsticks atop a drum that was created at Gathering Our Voices 2019 in Port Alberni in March. SUSAN QUINN PHOTO
Some of the Gathering Our Voices participants who helped carve the drum pose for a photo before the drum was donated to the Port Alberni Friendship Centre for safekeeping, then blessed. SUSAN QUINN PHOTO

Susie Quinn

About the Author: Susie Quinn

A journalist since 1987, I proudly serve as the Alberni Valley News editor.
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