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Whale House - Unframed 17x22

Artist: Andy Everson

Since time immemorial, five of the ten K’omoks groups or sub-tribes would gather together every year in our ancient ancestral lands on Quadra Island: the Sałułtxw, the Sałułtxwbut or Ḵ̓umugwe, the Sasitła, the Kutkudutł and the Yayaḵwitła. It was here that they formed the Ḵwa̱nis’awt̓xw, or “Whale House”, a metaphorical construct denoting shared ancestry and a common origin. The groups represented the “five fires” of the Whale House with two at the head, one in the body and two in the tail. It is said that the Whale House groups were the very first of the K’omoks to live in plank houses. It is also said that only members of this lineage could paint a whale on the front of their house amongst the K’omoks—a tradition my grandfather, as a member of the Sałułtxw, continued when he built his Bighouse in the 1950s.

Once a year, young men of the Whale House used to go out into the ocean in a huge carved whale. Our old people would say that it was almost like a submarine—it could submerge and then reappear on top of the water. When they would resurface, they’d eject eagle down out of the blow hole of the whale. One day long ago, this submarine failed to resurface. The people looked for the young men in vain until they noted that the whale was mysteriously transformed into an island. It is at Gowlland Harbour on Quadra Island where the sons of the Whale House chiefs were said to be entombed in rock forever.

The K’omoks First Nation once again harkens back to our ancient history in deciding to name our new administration building the “Whale House”. It is felt that we can call on the strength of our ancestors to guide us; to ensure that the decisions made within the walls of the new building will be sound ones that benefit the continued strength of the K’omoks people.

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