Haida Gwaii - Building Bridges

a penandpapermama site

About Me

I am yaahts haadaa.
A johnny-come-lately
A stranger
In a land of a people with roots
Deep, deep in this place,
In this Haida Gwaii.

I have no right
to lay claim to belong here.
I have come, and gone,
And come and gone again,
And again.

And yet I cannot help
but call it home.
I have no other home.
Here I was conceived.
Here I was rocked to sleep
In the arms of naanni Nora.
Here I stretched my chubby baby legs
And toddled alongside parents and friends.
Long evening walks on the docks
And across the bridge to Delkatla,
And along the inlet to Old Massett village.
Enjoyed family picnics at Limberlost,
Gazed high high high to the peaks of Tow Hill.

And then we went away
And the years flew by.
In a different place.
A different people.
A different culture.
But our parents told us the stories
Of their first years together
On those islands
A place that had become part of their fabric.
And mine.

And so one day I returned.
I sat on that same bridge and gazed out
And I saw so clear
The way I had seen it from my toddler view.
I had come home.
I came to teach
But instead I learned
So much.

I am yaahts haadaa.
A johnny-come-lately
A stranger.
And yet this is my home.
The home of this man
Who has taken me into his arms,
Unconditionally.
His love still takes my breath away.
The home of our five children
(And the others who left us too soon)
Whose faces show their inheritance
Of two sets of roots,
But whose hearts reach deep, deep
Into these islands of their people.

The home of my many students
Who taught me, and still teach me,
What is truly important.
The home of naaniis
Who taught me to love,
And tsinniis who taught me
To wait and be patient.
The home of my husband’s family.
Parents and sisters and brothers
And uncles and aunts
And tsinniis and naaniis.
How could he have so many? I wondered.
“All my relations” he said.
And I came to understand that.

Today, in this moment, my feet walk on land
Far from these islands.
But my heart never leaves them.
I am yaahts haadaa.
But maybe, just maybe,
I’m a bridge as well.

Take my hand.
Follow my heart.
Listen.
Let’s learn together.

 

Norma J Hill

March 25, 2013

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