Frigid winds blew into Hardy Bay on Nov. 5, but that didn’t stop Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw elected chief Paddy Walkus from standing on deck of the newly acquired Mars Rustler boat in a t-shirt and sandals, in classic Island style.
Walkus was surrounded by other community leaders and staff at k’awat’si Economic Development Corporation (KEDC) to dedicate the boat, recently acquired to expand the corporation’s marine transport business.
The 22-metre steel boat was put to work immediately delivering freight to three Mowi aquaculture sites directly north of Port Hardy.
The boat was purchased in September, but Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw held a celebration event this month to dedicate the boat.
Elders, hereditary chiefs, councillors and other community leaders gathered on the dock and on the boat and said prayers, sang songs and gave speeches to mark the occasion.
“This is a game-changer. We used to be out of the circle looking in, but now we’re part of the circle. We have a seat at the table,” said councillor Darryl Coon, speaking on behalf of hereditary chief Thomas Hil’amas Henderson.
k’awat’si Marine Transport now has a fleet of four boats, and is on a strategic mission to become a marine transport power house in the Queen Charlotte Strait between northern Vancouver Island and the mainland.
KEDC CEO Cyrus Singh said the Mars Rustler is another step towards Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw’s achieving economic self-determination.
Eddie Walkus who manages k’awat’si Marine Transport was honoured, along with his partner Tamara Kiever and their young daughter, Sophia. Purchasing the Mars Rustler was largely his project. The large boat allows him to transport fuel and large freight. He plans to offer services to other communities in the area who rely heavily on boat deliveries.
One of his real motivations was to be able to build houses for elders and young people back on the homelands of the Gwa’sala and Nakwaxda’xw nations: Blunden Harbour (Ba’as) and Smith Inlet (Takush).
Henderson gave him a Nakwaxda’xw name at the blessing that means determination, a trait many said Walkus shows that embodies his great-grandfather, Robert Walkus Sr.
The young men were there to drum and sing, and nine-year-old Takoda George danced. It’s on purpose to have people of all ages involved in a gathering like this, said speaker Charles Willie. It’s part of how their culture is taught and permeates all aspects of life. It’s not just for ceremonies in the big house, it’s for the everyday, he said.
Most of those gathered were wearing bright red regalia, punctuating the cold grey day with vibrant colour. At one point, a rainbow framed the boat as the leaders circled the deck singing a blessing. Eagle down floated through the air spread by the leaders as a blessing.
“The weather is cold, but what we have done today has warmed our hearts,” said hereditary chief Willie Walkus.
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