Wiga’xa̱n’s Yaḵ̓a̱nt̓alape. Let us speak together. The Project name says it all. The Kumugwe Cultural Society has wanted to host a language camp for several years and finally felt ready to make that happen. Two weekend-long camps plus monthly language primers; everyone was very excited! Unfortunately, 2020 had other things in store for us. To protect our elders, our immunocompromised, our children, and our families, the original vision of Wigax̱a̱n’s Yaḵa̱ntalape underwent some major revisions after our approval from the First Peoples’ Cultural Council.
The core goals of the project hold true. Participants in this project will be speaking together in their own household or bubble. Five families will undertake weekly and monthly goals to learn and practice Kwak̕wala while engaging with videos, online forums, interactive games, and home-based resources.
With Ninox̱sola Evelyn Voyageur and Mary Everson to guide the project, Zac Whyte to film monthly content videos, Carla Voyageur and Keisha Everson to create games and lessons, and Lee Everson to oversee the vision, the Wigax̱a̱n’s Yaḵa̱ntalape team has created an experience that will further the language journeys of five families and created online content to reach learners far and wide.
Lee Everson is a guest on K’omoks First Nations territory, wife to Nagedzi hereditary Chief Rob Everson of the Gigalga̱m Wala̱s Kwaguł and mother of three. Lee is deeply rooted in her family’s culture, making regalia for her family, assisting in organizing feasts and potlatches, and dancing regularly with the Kumugwe Dancers. To ensure she follows traditional protocols she seeks guidance from Elders and knowledge keepers. Lee is fiercely proud of her family and grateful to be part of the Potlatching community. She has volunteered her time in organizing events such as National Aboriginal Day, The Annual Red Dress Awareness Campaign and Installation, Walking With Our Sisters K’omoks (the first location in BC), and serves as the volunteer administrator for the Kumugwe Cultural Society and Dance Group for the past eleven years. Lee was the curator for Potlatch 67-67 where she addressed the importance of reclaiming culture through art since the devastation of the Potlatch Ban.
Carla is of Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw and Nisga’a ancestry . Maxmuwidzumga is the traditional name that bestowed upon her, roughly translated to “leaves a part of herself wherever she goes – her essence” from the Kwakwala language. She was raised immersed in the richness of the Kwakwaka’wakw language, culture, values and traditions.
She lives on the traditional unceded territory of the K’omoks and Pentlatch tribes and is a Kwakwala instructor at the North Island College. Homeschooling mom to four (4), Carla has always had a passion for the Kwakwaka’wakw language and culture, education, technology and the intertwining of them all.
Keisha Everson carries the name “La̱lx̱sa̱n Dala’og̱wa from her great-grandmother, Margaret Frank nee Wilson. Keisha is of Kwakwaka’wakw, K’omoks, Tlingit, Dutch, and English ancestry and is a member of the K’omoks First Nation. She is a proud new mom currently on maternity leave from School District No. 72 where she works as an Indigenous Language and Culture Teacher for all ages but especially K-8.
In September 2019 Keisha began co-teaching the Kwak̕̕wala KWA-096 and KWA-097 courses at North Island College; teaching adults has been a powerful learning experience. Keisha is also in the final months of a Masters’ of Education in Indigenous Language Revitalization from the University of Victoria.
Dr. Evelyn Voyageur is a Registered Nurse and holds a PhD in Psychology. Evelyn has extensive experience in health care in the community, hospital and in nursing education.
Evelyn worked with the Indian Residential School Society for four years from 1999, where her work concentrated on isolated villages and support for former students healing from the trauma of residential schools. Evelyn was invited to join the North Island College’s Nursing Program to support changes to its curriculum to help bring cultural awareness to their programming after hearing her present on “the effects of the residential school on the health of the First Nations.” In 2005, Evelyn received an award in nursing from Health Canada for making a difference in working with the First Nations people. Evelyn was the first Native nurse to receive this award of excellency.
Evelyn has been active in the Aboriginal Nurses Association of Canada since 1980; serving as the BC representative, vice president and as president (2010 to 2012) and is still active in the association. Evelyn founded the Native and Inuit Nurses Association of BC (NINA) in the early 1980s to help educate those who work with the First Nations communities.
Elder Mary Everson nee Frank, “Uma’galis”, is Kwakwaka’wakw, K’omoks and Tlingit, and comes from the K’omoks First Nation. She was raised in the old way by her mother and father, Margaret and Andy Frank, and their teachings have impacted how she lives her life today. Mary has also served on the board of directors for Aboriginal Women’s Council of BC and Yukon, the BC Native Courtworkers, and was one of the founders of the Upper Island Women of Native Ancestry as well as the Kumugwe Cultural Society where she is President. Additionally, she has served on many councils and committees over the years. Currently, she is working with School District 71 as an Elder adviser. She was a foster mom for over forty-five years, and is, most importantly, mom to eight children from 11 to 55.
“Make choices to make life better for each and everyone who are lost and hurt! Culture is not only when you wear regalia and dance, it is a way of life that our ancestors can see! He em”
Zac Whyte is a creative communications professional and visual media producer from Courtenay, British Columbia. He is a father of three and a sixth generation Comox Valley resident with a deep interest in building cultural bridges of understanding and sustainable development models that foster resilient social, environmental and economic wellness. Zac has an Honours degree in Liberal Studies from Vancouver Island University and Honours diploma in Broadcast Media and Television Communications from British Columbia Institute of Technology.
Established in 2007, The Kumugwe Cultural Society’s purpose is to promote, preserve, and advocate for cultural practices of the K’omoks and Kwakwaka’wakw Peoples. It aims to conduct activities that foster a vibrant cultural experience for its members and advocate for Indigenous Peoples to promote social change.