First Nations copper cutting ceremony in Ottawa will be “challenge” to all Canadians

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      When Haida copper is smashed on Parliament Hill on July 27, the ancient shaming ceremony won’t just be sending a message to the federal government.

      On the first day of the Awalaskenis II journey from Vancouver to Ottawa, Kwakwaka’wakw hereditary chief and carver Beau Dick told the Georgia Straight that he sees performing the copper cutting ritual as a “challenge” to all Canadians as well.

      “It’s about consciousness and about waking up to realize that, as human beings, we have a lot of things to sort out,” Dick said on Wednesday (July 2), as he marched with about 40 people on West Broadway.

      Dick and the others had just come from the University of British Columbia’s Point Grey campus, where a send-off ceremony for the journey saw copper shields transferred from the Haida to the Kwakwaka’wakw people.

      Led by three men carrying the coppers, the marchers paused at Granville Street to sing, drum, and dance, before continuing on toward Commercial Drive.

      Namgis hereditary chief and carver Beau Dick (second from right) says First Nations can teach the world about “reconciliation and unity”.
      Stephen Hui

      According to Dick, after a stop in Chilliwack on Saturday (July 5), the coppers will be driven across the country to the national capital.

      The artist remarked that breaking copper in Ottawa will be historic and “very special”. Last year, he revived the ritual—not practised for decades—when he shattered a Kwakwaka’wakw copper shield in front of the B.C. legislature in Victoria.

      “Our concerns are to draw attention to the distress of the ocean and the waterways, and social justice,” Dick said. “We want to address that. There’s many layers to it. But it’s people coming together to share truth and unity, and that’s what the movement is about.”

      Dick credited Giindajin Haawasti Guujaaw, a carver and former president of the Council of the Haida Nation, with bringing forward the coppers.

      Haida carver Giindajin Haawasti Guujaaw says the federal government must stop "pretending that it’s their land".
      Stephen Hui

      As marchers passed the waving staff of the Salmon n’ Bannock bistro (1128 West Broadway), Guujaaw explained to the Straight how he views the upcoming copper cutting ceremony.

      “What we’re doing here is not against Canada or Canadians,” Guujaaw said. “It’s about governments of Canada and their lack of responsiveness to deal with our issues, their lack of care for the Earth. This thing that we’re doing, our expectation is not so much getting one over on anybody, but rather to get, from ourselves, this part of it done. We’re finished with crying. We’re done with that. All the hurt, all those things, we don’t want to keep bothering with that. We’ve got to get on and work these things out. So that’s where we hope it will go from there.”

      "We are all one."
      Stephen Hui

      Guujaaw added that First Nations are “calling baloney” on the federal government’s actions.

      “We’re not going to let them wreck this Earth,” Guujaaw said. “We’re not going to let them keep pretending that it’s their land and that they can do with it as they please. There’s got to be more respect shown to the Earth than what we’ve seen over the last 100 years.”

      Awalaskenis II marchers walked from UBC to Commercial Drive.
      Stephen Hui




      Jul 3, 2014 at 8:35pm

      Good for them. And shame on the governments in this country at every level for not representing who they're supposed to...the people!

      William Wasden Jr

      Jul 3, 2014 at 9:02pm

      Beau is from the Dzawada'enuxw not the 'Namgis, this needs to be corrected.


      Jul 3, 2014 at 10:32pm

      I fully support this challenge to Canadians. The Harper government has done more than enough to ruin the true face of Canada, and has ignored every attempt at raising our voices at them. It is sickening to see that Canada, is not Canada anymore. It is tainted with nothing but money hungry foreign investors who could care less about this country, unless it makes them a hefty profit.

      We are supposed to live in a country where we have a voice, where we have the freedom to put our words into action. Not anymore. If this continues, we will be forever repressed and drowned by the stomps of corporate entities.

      People; stop dismissing and turning your nose the other way. The time is now, take charge or you will forever regret your ignorance.


      Jul 4, 2014 at 8:54am

      Thank you for those words of TRUTH!


      Jul 4, 2014 at 5:17pm

      It was a great pleasure to walk beside Beau Dick and my cousin from Kitselas/Nass, Pam Bevan. This undertaking is important to focus attention on the great injustices we, the Pacific Northwest coast First Nations, have endured since the coming of the 'White-man'. We were nearly totally exterminated by germ warfare during successive waves of Small Pox epidemics, and then we have been institutionalized and lied to in Residential and Indian Day schools and finally our lands, waters and resources are stolen from us on a daily basis. Our forefathers were promised a fair treaty but it has never come and so we are impoverished as a direct result and are dependent on the racist government for piecemeal handouts on a monthly basis. Hopefully when we break this Copper on Parliament Hill the fraudsters, the Prime Minister of Canada and Premier of British Columbia will be exposed. It is a step in the right direction to halt the destruction of our habitats, community members and our guests from around the world.


      Jul 4, 2014 at 9:20pm

      If Idle no More accomplished anything, it showed that the only group that hates Natives more than the current government is the Canadian public. I dont know what will help the natives get what they want but the only challenge will be counting the nasty comments online.

      Yaahldaajii(Gary P. Russ)

      Jul 6, 2014 at 1:08pm

      There is no shame in Ottawa or Victoria,the Haidas should break away from Canada,the trust has been broken!There is no trust in the crown!

      dorothy boyd

      Jul 9, 2014 at 5:12pm

      good work

      Victor Isaac

      Jul 12, 2014 at 6:20pm

      William Wasden is correct Beau is not a Namgis hereditary Chief Please correct this.I am on our constitution committee and the five Namgis Chiefs are listed

      Martin Dunphy

      Jul 12, 2014 at 6:23pm


      Thanks, but that was corrected a few weeks ago.