An unforgettable event in Anhluut’ukwsim Laxmihl Angwinga’asanskwhl Nisga’a (Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Park)
An interview with BC Parks Area Supervisor Jade
If you’ve been lucky enough to visit Anhluut’ukwsim Laxmihl Angwinga’asanskwhl Nisga’a (Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Park), you know of its breathtaking beauty. It features one of the youngest and most accessible volcanic features in B.C. It is also the first provincial park to be jointly managed by a First Nation and BC Parks. That means all decisions must be agreed on by the park board with equal representation from the Nisga’a Lisims Government and BC Parks staff.
This past July, the 30th Anniversary and Naming Ceremony at Anhluut’ukwsim Laxmihl Angwinga’asanskwhl Nisga’a (Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Park) was celebrated. BC Parks staff who were there returned to work buzzing with stories about the day to anyone who would listen – it was obviously a special and impactful celebration.
We sat down with Jade, Skeena Nass Area Supervisor, who played a key role in organizing the event in collaboration with Nisga’a partners and shared memorable stories from the day and its lead up.
It sounds like the park anniversary and naming ceremony this past summer was incredible. What made it so significant?
Jade: It was. In Nisga’a culture, every building has its own life cycle that it goes through. The Nisga’a visitor centre, Wilp T’aam Lax Sankw’ax, needed a newly painted façade, which was painted by Nisga’a artist Jaimie Davis, and the old façade was moved to stand next to a new carving shed – Wilp Si pts’aans Oyee – where it will remain until the end of its lifecycle.
On July 9, both the new façade and carving shed had a blessing and naming ceremony. Simgigat and Sigidimhaanak’ (Nisga’a chiefs and matriarchs) representing each tribe across the Nass Valley participated in the naming processes. Sim’oogit Luudisdoos blessed the new carving shed with cedar boughs and lake water.
These ceremonies were already set to take place given Nisga’a protocols, and it just so happened that it was also the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the co-managed park — so 30 years of partnership and co-management was also celebrated.
The artwork on the new visitor centre façade is beautiful. Can you tell us more about it?
Jade: One of the Nisga’a Chiefs told his family story of when the river went through this area, children were mistreating salmon and were warned by Elders that this would anger the lava spirit. This, in turn, is what caused the eruptions and led to the Nass Valley looking the way it does. He worked with artist Jaimie Davis who painted the façade and this story is reflected in it.
We’ve heard the lead up to the event had some really special components to it. Can you explain how you invited people to the event?
Jade: From the very early days of planning the event, the park board decided how everything was going to be done and it was decided that invitations to this significant event would be done by a historical protocol called ‘hits’, which roughly means ‘lighting a fire under one’s door’. With ‘hits’, people travel to villages to knock on doors and physically invite esteemed guests, one by one, to important events.
The Saturday before the event, myself and a park board member, Mansell, began our journey at Mansell’s house and set out to invite all of the esteemed guests. Once we found out where each guest lived, we knocked on invited guests’ doors. Mansell would introduce me and in preapproved Nisga’a and English (I had practiced the Nisga’a portion quite a lot), I read off an invitation to the community member.
At each house, I was given a token in return that I was required to accept (including freezies), and then we needed to do some detective work to figure out where to go next – often with the help of the people whose house we were visiting. Given the distances between villages (you’re often driving 1.5 hours in between each village), it took two full days to invite everyone. On the second day our senior park ranger was able to come along as well to observe and learn.
It was the most incredible experience. I was invited into the homes of very highly regarded Chiefs and Elders. They shared stories with me, and it has been a key highlight of not only my professional career but also my personal life.
Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park is the first provincial park to be jointly managed by a First Nation and BC Parks – can you explain what this looks like?
Jade: The Nisga’a Treaty is the first modern treaty in BC and the co-management agreement for the park came about through this treaty. We have regular board meetings where we discuss new opportunities for the park. Every decision – from the biggest to the smallest – is made by the board, working side by side on the management of this special place. Being a board member has been an enriching experience that has broadened my understanding and perspective of park values management through the relationships and stories shared at the board meetings.
The months of planning for this event was a true testament to the dedication of the park board as well as the Ayuukhl Nisga’a Department (Traditional laws and culture) of Nisga’a Lisims Government for ensuring that all protocols were honoured and respected. I am grateful for the trust to be included in this experience and I will cherish these memories for years to come.
This celebration was made possible through funding from the BC Parks Licence Plate Program. All net proceeds from the sale and renewal of the BC Parks licence plates are re-invested back into parks.
Learn more about BC Parks Licence Plates at bcparks.ca/licence-plates/