This year, Britannia Secondary students William Davis, Gerald Angus and Shaniece Angus got a lesson of a lifetime. The three teens were among 410 other Nisga'a people of all ages who undertook a two week long "Journey Home" to their traditional territories in Northern BC.
The trip was designed to re-connect urban Nisga'a with their territorial homeland, which lies west of the town of Terrace. The students say it was a fantastic experience. Travelling with their parents, elders and other members of their First Nation, they visited a collection of small communities dotting the interior. Each visit was marked by a feast of Nisga'a stew, fried bread, fruit and juice. Meals were taken in large Nisga'a Community Halls. Frequently, the buses would be greeted by songs and ceremonies of the local First People.
The students said everyone treated them like family members. But the whole journey wasn't all songs, feasts and smiles.
Along the way, the students stopped at St. Michael's an infamous residential school located on northern Vancouver Island. Now vacant, the schools exterior pockmarked and scarred by damage from rocks, graffiti and trash strewn about the floor. But what Davis and the Angus siblings say was most depressing was the dark memories the place evoked for the elders they were travelling with. The stories of emotional and physical abuse were chilling and evident in the faces and stories of their elders.
The whole journey was an eye opener for the students and one which convinced them that one day, they'd like to return to the Nisga'a valley. They say they have brought many of their stories back to Vancouver with them and have shared these experiences with many of their Britannia classmates.