A young woman all dressed in white regalia is seated on a handmade wooden bench that she had just been carried into the room on. She is being honoured at the April 8 ceremony as she reaches a new stage in life from childhood to womanhood, but also, she is taking in the teachings from the extended family that love her.
Thirteen-year-old Madison Lucas sits straight, taking in the songs and dances as her grandmothers, seated on each side of her, guide and protect. She listens intently and nods when speakers talk to her. She holds her hands up in praise at the end of each performance and speech.
The men’s powerful voices and the sounds of beating drums filled the room as dancers performed for young Madison.
After each dance, a speaker would explain where the dance comes from and why they performed it.
Students from the Gold River Secondary School cultural class performed a song and dance that was composed by Stan Lucas, Madison’s great uncle. Stan Lucas told the group that he gave the song and headdresses to the students so that they can learn it and pass the teachings on.
Emcee and floor manager Robert Watts did an excellent job explaining what was to happen and why. He praised the high school students on behalf of the hosts for rising to the challenge.
“You are keeping culture alive…there was a time when your parents and grandparents couldn’t do this, so your ancestors are proud of you,” he told them.
The Hanson family from Ka:'yu:'k't'h'/Che:k'tles7et'h' performed a dance. Standing with her family, Daisy Hanson reminded Madison to be proud of who she is. She said she hoped Madison would enjoy this opportunity to learn and to pass on what she knows.
Bill Oscar and family from Kyuquot honored Madison with a dance followed by more singing and dancing from the Johnson family of Mowachaht/Muchalaht. Standing with her Johnson family, Margaret Amos explained to Madison how all the people standing are related to her.
“We will always be here for you, Madison,” she added.
Madison comes from a large extended family. Her mother, Molly, has roots in Hupacasath, Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ and Tseshaht through her natural parents. But she can also count Huu-ay-aht and Kyuquot through her stepfather, Ben Clappis and the foster parents, Pete and Daisy Hansen, she had growing up.
On her father’s side, Madison is connected to Mowachaht/Muchalaht and Hesquiaht. Her father, Brian Frisco Lucas, is proud to say that when his mother Brenda married Sammy Johnson, the entire Johnson family took him as their own, giving him a strong connection to Mowachaht/Muchalaht.
Brian Frisco Lucas said he was estranged from his father, Brian Sr., for many years. He credits his wife Molly for bringing father and son together.
“She is our rock,” he said of Molly.
Brian and Molly have a blended family. Brian has four other children, including two older daughters, but said he was in addiction when they became young women.
“I didn’t connect, culturally,” he said.
But he always remembered the words of his late grandmother, Vi Johnson, when she held Madison for the first time.
“She said this baby will keep the family together and strong,” she told Brian and Molly.
For this reason, Madison’s ʕic̓tuuła was held in Gold River, Mowachaht/Muchalaht territory, in honour of Nan Vi Johnson. And most of the family wore shades of purple, her favorite color, in memory of her.
The Lucas’ raised Madison in cultural teachings from the time she was in the womb. Brian said he would sing or play family songs next to Molly’s belly. When Madison was born, they did placenta and belly button ceremonies. Brian said he was proud when he saw that Madison recognized singers’ voices and songs from a very young age.
Brian Lucas Sr. and some of his siblings were at the ceremony, singing and dancing for their granddaughter. Brian Frisco noted that his father’s aunt Mary was married into the Mowachaht/Muchalaht, further strengthening those ties.
Madison is culturally active and is being prepared for roles in her future, according to Brian Frisco.
“We do this for her because we want her to hold her head up and be proud of who she is and where she comes from,” he added.
Ka:'yu:'k't'h'/Che:k'tles7et'h' Ha’wilth Eugene John acknowledged his connection to Madison in her family by singing a song composed by late Dennis John. He told Brian that he has permission to use the song when he needs to.
Both Madison and her mother Molly were given names from Johnny Williams. Molly was named Hoq Ya Tulth, meaning ‘coming in from the ocean’. Madison was named Hee See Qwa Nulth, meaning, ‘she’s along the beach’.
“I am grateful for the Ha’wiih that came all the way to Gold River to be here for this,” said Brian.
He thanks Mowachaht/Muchalaht for the ceremonial use elk tag and the Huu-ay-aht for the donation of salmon, which fed his guests good, traditional food.
The Lucas’ together have seven children and are expecting their sixth grandchild very soon.
Looking back on how far he has come with his wife, Brian is grateful. He has this advice for young people: “Be gentle with your life and continue your education.”