On March 10 a small group from Ditidaht Community School traveled the long bumpy ride from Nitinaht Lake to Port Alberni in their school bus to invite seventh-grade Haahuupayuk School students to their Paddle Days.
Usually an annual event, the Ditidaht Community School Paddle Days came to a halt at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Paddle days comes in the last few weeks of the school year as the weather warms up. It allows the children to not only play but also learn how to navigate and paddle traditional dugout canoes on Nitinaht Lake as they race each other and students from other schools.
“We’ve had as many as 130 guests at Paddle Days,” said Sarah Tom, who was speaking on behalf of the DCS students.
Guests either camp or stay overnight in the classrooms.
Dressed in shawls and regalia, six DCS students and their supporters stood face-to-face with their Haahuupayuk counterparts. Cheyenne Tate got things off to a start with a prayer chant before the students, using their Ditidaht dialect of Nuu-chah-nulth, introduced themselves. They mentioned where they came from and who their parents and grandparents are, in traditional Nuu-chah-nulth custom.
Sarah Tom translated their message in English.
“Our students came to invite you to our Paddle Days event on June 7th and 8th,” she told the Haahuupayuk students. “We will paddle around, we will feed you and we will entertain you.”
Trevor Little, the Nuu-chah-nulth Studies assistant at Haahuupayuk School (owned by Tseshaht First Nation), thanked their guests for the invitation. He also thanked the students for sharing the beautiful song and for speaking their language in their introductions and invitation.
“It sounds awesome,” he told them.
The Haahuupayuk School students raised their hands and thanked the Ditidaht Community Schools in the Nuu-chah-nulth language.
“We’re excited and hope you can come,” said Sarah Tom.
She said the students that came to do the invitations are volunteers, doing this during their spring break. Those students were Amanda Peter, Karen Williams, Cheyenne Tate, Shanice Chester-Edgar, Mabel Adams, and Brayden Tom.
Principal Emily McLennan was there along with elders Christine Edgar, Dorothy Sheperd, Tina Joseph, Grace Marshall and Chester John.
The group went off to Nanoose to issue more invitations. They had already been to Penelakut and Port Renfrew to invite students from there as well.