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Beau Dick

Blog post by: Brad Beattie, Reconciliation Canada Team Member

I’m fascinated with story telling and easily pulled in by great storytellers. To consider your audience, the message you want to convey and deliver it in such a way that each listener becomes a painter within their own imagination, is truly an art.

Just this past week I was sitting in an event operations meeting with our team discussing the production elements for the upcoming Walk for Reconciliation. As I’ve experienced so often since I joined the team in April, we were sitting with a volunteer who is a leader in his community and passionate about supporting our mission to find A New Way Forward. His name is Beau Dick.

This was our second operations team meeting with Beau, but the first in person. I remembered the initial meeting and how I had grabbed my iPhone to google Beau Dick while my colleague dialed his phone number in Alert Bay. I scanned the snippets of information that appeared; Aboriginal artist…traditional ceremonial masks…part of documentary…artist in many galleries…OK, I thought, I’m prepared for this meeting now and to hear what he has to say about the design elements and we can get moving on our plans! “Hello?” came the voice through the phone’s speaker; my experience began.

In person, Beau’s presence is felt way beyond his tall physical stature. He carries an energy and mystique that I am not able to put into words. This second meeting, with our agendas and goals, became much more of a dialogue and gathering of ideas that seemed to float around…my Type-A desire to grab them and nail them down into clear actions that described team members’ deliverables and timelines seemed to have dissipated. I was on Beau’s journey.

The Yakala Dance has not been performed in a very long time, I learn. It is a traditional ceremony that has been passed on for hundreds of years, from generation to generation. I pick up snippets from the story telling around collective transformation and diversity of underwater characters that are unique in their own way but united by their world. I can’t help but paint a general picture of what my 10-year old daughter would imagine as Finding Nemo. I know it is much, much more when Beau humbly shows us pictures of some of the characters that he has brought to life through one of his art forms, traditional ceremonial masks. I am awestruck by their beauty and individual stories. I am even more excited that the thousands of people planning to participate in the Walk for Reconciliation will actively experience the Yakala dance with Beau’s masks playing their peekaboo role along the walk route.

Beau’s demeanor changes slightly. It hints at animation and I’m pulled back into the now. “There is a story of a young girl that I would like to share with all of you…”. I can’t help myself, I reach for my I-phone and scramble for the microphone app. I make eye contact with my boss searching her face to see if this appropriate. Beau smiles slightly at me without interrupting the rhythm and tone of this story…a storyteller unlike any I’ve ever experienced.

It is the end of an amazing week with our Reconciliation Team and I’m left challenged to figure out how to best share the many stories I’ve collected over the last couple of weeks. I’m a Political Science grad and focused much of my efforts on Canadian Studies yet have come to realize how little I still know about Canada’s history of Residential Schools and the generational impact it continues to have in our communities. The Aboriginal leaders supporting this work inspire me – just listen to Chief Joseph on CKNW’s Bill Good Show as he speaks of being a Residential School Survivor and his dream of A New Way Forward.

The challenge is that our culture consumes snippets of information, to effectively be ‘in the know’ through tightly written stories or word count restricted “tweets”. The challenge is to focus through the noise, the competition of other ‘news’, every-day life and busyness of the starting back to school that the end of August creates. The challenge is to offer everyone the opportunity to join me on Beau’s journey and put aside our action plans and deadlines for a brief moment. A moment where we can explore our diversity as Canadians and our ‘Namwayut – We are All One.

Experience Walk for Reconciliation on September 22nd.