Back by popular demand: Tla-o-qui-aht’s naaʔuu cultural showcase entertains tourists while raising money for programs | Ha-Shilth-Sa Newspaper

Back by popular demand: Tla-o-qui-aht’s naaʔuu cultural showcase entertains tourists while raising money for programs

Tofino, BC

Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks Guardians are proud to present the naaʔuu cultural feast event for the second year in a row. Naaʔuu, which means feast, shows on select weekends over the summer at the Tin Wis Best Western Resort & Conference Centre.

According to the Tin Wis website, naaʔuu, developed by Tla-o-qui-aht, showcases history and culture from the perspective of their people.

The event allows guests to sample a true Nuu-chah-nulth-style seafood buffet prepared by Tla-o-qui-aht caterer Roberta Tom and team. Roberta is proud of the seafood diet preferred by Nuu-chah-nulth-aht, especially when it is prepared the Nuu-chah-nulth way. Almost all of the food was harvested locally, by Tla-o-qui-aht men and women.

Roberta said that she loves their food and the fact that it is all seafood and healthy. The freshest items on the menu on May 25 were the crab, harvested by a Tla-o-qui-aht youth and the salmon, caught the day before by his fisherman father.

“I displayed the entire salmon on the platter to show that all parts were eaten, even the head and tail,” said Tom, stressing the importance of not wasting food. “If we have too much then we have to share it.”

She thanked the crowd for coming to see how the Tla-o-qui-aht prepare and eat food.

For the May 25 event host Terry Dorward introduced himself as Seitcha. He stood on the dimly lit stage under red lighting as the smell of cedar smoke wafted through the air.

As guests waited at tables for the show to start, they enjoyed the atmosphere created to give the feeling of entering a longhouse. Beautiful carvings hung from the perimeter of the room while video reels played on the screen showing proud Tla-o-qui-aht moments while recordings of drumming softly played in the background.

“We designed this program with our people to help support underfunded programs,” Seitcha told the crowd.

His nation, he said, is getting creative generating modes of fundraising that helps language and cultural programs while supporting the stewardship and retention of natural resources.

He told the people that the event was not a potlatch and the songs and dances they would see were either created by the hosts for the naaʔuu event or they had permission of the chiefs to use certain songs. Guests were encouraged to take photos and videos and share on social media with the hashtag #naauu

“We encourage you to come hungry – as you will be treated to a seafood buffet,” said Seitcha.

He joked that they would be rolling people out the door after the event, because they would be so full.

Following dinner, naaʔuu host makes a presentation. This year there are two hosts – Terry Dorward and Allison Howard. Each host writes their own presentation, so guests can enjoy different experiences if they see both.

Seitcha’s presentation started with the First Nation’s history followed by a traditional Tla-o-qui-aht welcome song and dance.

Seitcha spoke of important symbols in Nuu-chah-nulth art, like the thunderbird, whales and sea serpents, and how Nuu-chah-nulth-aht were known for their skill at hunting whales to feed the people.

“That Nuu-chah-nulth would hunt whales is said to be equivalent to a full-grown male human being taken down by eight mice,” he noted.

Seitcha went on to speak of colonialism and the impacts residential schools and government policies had on Indigenous peoples in Canada. People are still healing from the damage caused by these things, which disrupted family structures and ancestral languages, while displacing people.  

According to Seitcha, the Tla-o-qui-aht are using their Tribal Park guardians to help their people heal from the effects of colonization. Programs like naaʔuu were developed as an alternate source of income for the nation, which does not exploit natural resources.

“We need to find strength in these struggling times,” said Seitcha.

He spoke of the interconnectedness of everything and the Nuu-chah-nulth world view of hishookish tsawok, meaning everything is one.

“We need the forests for the salmon and the bears need the salmon, too,” said Seitcha.

For reasons like these, Seitcha said the Tla-o-qui-aht Ha’wiih (hereditary chiefs) made a declaration that their entire territory is a tribal park.

Besides the naaʔuu event, Tla-o-qui-aht have implemented a Tribal Parks Ally program where Tofino’s local businesses that benefit from operating on TFN territory may collect a one-per-cent ecosystem service fee on behalf of the First Nation. Dozens of Tofino businesses have opted in – funds raised go to support ecosystem revitalization, environment monitoring activities, infrastructure development and cultural programs.

Naaʔuu, said Seitcha, was designed to empower young people of the nation.

“Naaʔuu was designed to help our young to be proud of who we are,” he said.

Proceeds from ticket sales pay for the event. Seitcha estimates about 60 per cent of tickets sales goes to expenses and to pay the cooks and performers. Roughly 40 per cent goes to underfunded cultural and language programs for the nation’s youth.

Development of the naaʔuu experience is a work in progress. Seitcha says they are working on increasing cultural performances. In addition, Tla-o-qui-aht is working with a Tseshaht group to help develop their own cultural tourism experience.

A sample of the menu can be found on the Eventbrite naaʔuu page. On May 25, guests were treated to a variety of fish including smoked black cod, baked salmon and halibut along with fresh crab, herring roe on branches and prawns.

Guests are advised to arrive with fully charged phones and devices as photos and videos are allowed and even encouraged during the event. Hash-tagged videos appear on the Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks or Tin Wis Resort social media pages.

Each naaʔuu event runs for three hours, beginning at 6 p.m., at the Best Western Plus Tin Wis Resort Conference Centre at 1119 Pacific Rim Highway in Tofino. Naa?uu will show June 7, 8, 14, 15, 22, 28 and 29.

For tickets visit . There is special pricing available for Nuu-chah-nulth-aht.

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