Haahuupayak perform in gratitude for contribution towards Grade 7 graduation | Ha-Shilth-Sa Newspaper

Haahuupayak perform in gratitude for contribution towards Grade 7 graduation

Port Alberni, BC

Students of Haahuupayak elementary school shared songs and dances around the fire of Tseshaht’s longhouse, expressing gratitude for at least $1,500 in donations received for their Grade 7 graduation. 

Haahuupayak elementary’s class of 2024 is the largest Lena Ross, the school’s intermediate Nuu-chah-nulth studies teacher, has seen. A total of 26 Grade 7 students will move on to the Alberni District Secondary School (ADSS).

Singing thunderously, students of Haahuupayak entered the longhouse, with a song they sing each morning at school, t̓amay̓ak, by late-Doug Robinson, wrote Ross in an email to Ha-Shilth-Sa. Next, with the slow beat of a drum was ʔiʔišsuwił (pitch woman) to serve as a reminder for the children to be still and listen.

The Grade 4 class sang the hiikuułʔatḥ song, belonging to Tseshaht ḥaw̓ił William Severinson, while dancing the t̓iick̓in (thunderbird), said Ross. Soon after the Grade 5 students took to the floor with the same song, but dancing c̓ixʷatin ʔiš k̓ayuumin (eagle and cougar).

The Grade 6 and 7 students danced three songs: the hiikuułʔatḥ song, Spirit of the River by George Watts, and ƛiḥuuw̓a by Sam Haiyipus and Kathy Robinson, shared Ross, noting that they were given permission to sing each song.

“Our Grade 6, 7 classes, they choose, [and] they connect to the masks that they're wearing,” said Ross.

She added that many former students return to the school to visit their masks due to the connection that they’ve made. 

“One young lady, she was holding the ocean mask and she just looked at it and she goes, ‘I haven't seen you for such a long time’,” recalled Lena.

At the event Tseshaht Councillor Ed Ross announced a donation of $500 from the Tseshaht First Nation to the Grade 7 graduating class, while Dwayne Hearn, Tseshaht’s forestry operations manager, is donating an additional $1,000.

“You guys are reinvigorating our hall, bringing our hall to life, putting life into the ground, singing the songs that our walls will remember,” said Ed. “On behalf of our nation, we just want to say what a good day it is today.”

“I'm so proud of them,” said Lena, of the students. “I'm always proud of them because they work so hard.”

“I think we're in good hands in the future with these children,” she added. 

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