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Reviving the culture through naming ceremony


Windspeaker Staff







Celebrating her "coming of age", tiny Isabella Marjorie Georgia Shaughnessy was given her Kwakwaka'wakkw name at an early November ceremony in Victoria.
"Traditionally, Kwakwaka'wakw babies weren't given names until they were ten months old. That's because many died before reaching that age," explained proud grandfather, Chief George Shaughnessy, Maxwxwidziy, of Wakeman Sound.
A child's naming ceremony is especially joyous because it signifies they have chosen to stay here on this earth, he explained. "When a child is finally given their name, it reflects a term of endearment, like "Gift of Heaven", for example."
Because the ceremony was held outside of Kwakwaka'wakw territory, planning for the event began four months ago.
"We followed protocol in respect to the Coast Salish who live here," said Shaughnessy, describing the meticulous attention paid to the guest list and the eagle down that Speaker for the ceremony Chief Adam Dick, who is Kwakwaka'wakw, placed on the ground before using the Mungo Martin Bighouse (Wawadit'la) for the ceremony.
Nine men chosen for their good character wore handkerchiefs around their heads and were painted with ochre before they danced around the floor holding Isabella. Following their lead, Shaughnessy was the last to dance with his granddaughter and held her as she received her name. Daisy Sewid-Smith was Potlatch recorder, assisted by Kim Recalma-Clutesi.
Following the naming, the Shaughnessy family and their 200 guests sat down to a traditional seafood feast.
It's only in the last three or four years that people have been reviving this timeless ceremony, Shaughnessy commented.