Duck Soup

 

A small group of watchmen and women stand guard at the old Haida villages scattered throughout the southern half of Haida Gwaii: K'uuna (Skedans), SGaang Gwaii (Anthony Island/Ninstints), Hlk'yah (Windy Bay), Burnaby Narrows, Gandle K'in (Hotspring Island) and T'aanuu (Tanu). These people protect the totem poles, bentwood boxes, and other artifacts or structures at these sites from being stolen for museums or private collections. In the meantime though, they act as guides, hosts, and storytellers for visitors to the islands.


At one of the old village sites, T'aanuu, I met a Haida watch woman named Duck Soup.


Duck Soup

 

She holds tears in her eyes. Quietly she confides,

“I feel like I lost part of the group.”

I look behind me along the trail; we are all still here—here where so many no longer are, where million dollar views stand vacated, where only two survivors having outlived generations and foreign viruses were both stolen to schools that taught them not to be them, where she stands watch and confides that she feels like she has lost part of the group.

“Well, some of the elderly people in our group are a bit tired and –“

“No,” she interrupts, “the young blonde in the red.”


I pause. “I wonder why I do this anymore.” The tears fall.

I struggle to tell her how meaningful her stories are, her presence is. I struggle to remind her of the ripples, of the impossibility of being with her when where she is is so sublime and full with loss and connection, of the improbability of holding the attention of a large group of tourists. 

I respond, “It’s important to doubt yourself. Without doubt we become complacent, but you…” 

She looks into my eyes through running water…


I don’t recall exactly what I say from there but I manage to comfort her somewhat. We hug for a long time. Later, an older gentleman from our group asks if I knew her. Tense betrays me but how absurd to answer no. 



AUGUST, 2013, T’AANUU – HAIDA GWAII