Towards the end of the residency at Dynamo Arts I was invited to attend the potlatch ceremony of Chief Alan Hunt in Fort Rupert, Vancouver Island. Potlatch is a generic term used to describe the traditional gift giving ceremonies, feasts and seasonal celebrations of the First Nations people of the Pacific Northwest, often held when a person passes into a new stage of life and status (births, deaths, marriages, naming ceremonies etc.). Despite attempts to prohibit potlatching by the colonial authorities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, its continuation became a focus for cultural resistance and indigenous resurgence in the region. Like his mentors Wayne Alfred, Marcus Alfred, Bruce Alfred and Beau Dick, Alan Hunt comes from a long line of Kwakwaka'wakw artists who have fought to preserve their people’s customs and traditions.
Alan is a carver of Kwakwaka’wakw and Tlingit ancestry and a descendant of George Hunt, Franz Boas’s advisor and lead research assistant in his influential study of Kwakwiutl ethnography. George Hunt’s father, Robert Hunt had worked for the Hudson Bay Company, whose main trading post was in Fort Rupert. During the ceremony Alan was inaugurated as a potlatch chief and received the name Hamasaḵa from his great grandfather Ha̱midi (Hutch Hunt). Alan initiated his brother Jaden into the Hamatsa society with the name T̓sa̱mkwag̱ał and showed the dowry which came when he married his wife Alexis: The Weather dance, the Bear dance and The Intruders.
The Skullcracker team (myself, Steve Calvert, Grégoire Dupond and Stephanie Moran) were given permission to document all the dances performed at Alan's potlatch. A selection of images and videos from the ceremony can be seen here. Below is one of the performances from the sequence: an articulated Raven mask recently carved by Beau and Alan at Beau's studio at the UBC Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory in Vancouver where Alan worked as Beau's apprentice. Beau is the figure in the video wearing a white shirt and directing the dancer with a rattle.