K’yuuksxw – Waking up to Hope, a federally-funded celebration of women and a push for economic security in the Hazeltons was held at the Anglican Church Hall last Thursday.
K’yuuksxw, meaning wake up, in the Gitxsan language, was organized by the Storytellers’ Foundation and featured musicians, craft booths, and several projects designed specifically to showcase the stories and value of local women.
The event was made possible by funding from Status of Women Canada (SWC), a federal organization promoting economic, social and democratic participation from women in Canada.
K’yuuksxw coincides with a SWC national event on December 6 called the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, which is close to the end of a two-week awareness-raising campaign from Nov. 25 to Dec. 10.
Event organizer, Sarah Panofsky, Storytellers’ Foundation, said planning for the event took about a year of consultation with community members and Ladies’ Nights to make it happen.
“Last summer we provided a safe space for women to gather, share ideas and have fun,” Panofsky said about the Ladies’ Nights.
“Through that we learned about the strengths of the women in the community as well as the issues they encounter on a regular basis.”
One of the outcomes of the discussions was in the centre of the hall, a space called the Inner World.
At the centre of the space is a multicolored wheel with the word, Hope, with other inspirational words surrounding it, bordered by sheets with a single doorway for people to enter.
“All of our conversations were funneled into it,” Panofsky said.
“Every one of the big themes were part of Inner World with hope in the centre.”
Quotes, ideas and concepts such as: feeling of value, “I love to dance” and a network of support services surrounded the central theme of K’yuuksxw and the installation.
Booths detailing the lives of local women, such as Frances Mowatt, Shirley Muldon, Kara Weeber, Chasity Turley and Chelsie Shanoss.
Each booth consisted of a collage of photos of important people in the lives of these women and also included a recorded personal interview done by Storytellers’.
Chelsie Shanoss, 20, shared some intimate details of her life, as all those interviewed did, to inform the general public about the realities of life in the Hazeltons.
Shanoss, raised by her grandparents in Gitsegukla, was moved to Surrey to live with her mom when she was 13, but returned to the Hazeltons when she was 19.
Life was not always easy for her in either place, but the foundation provided by her grandmother enabled her to persevere.
“She taught me how to love and I don’t think anybody can change that,” Shanoss told Storytellers’.
Shanoss has overcome several hardships since becoming involved with the Storytellers’ Community Kitchen, a program designed to develop participants’ knowledge of both where food comes from and how to prepare meals.
“If it wasn’t for the Community Kitchen I wouldn’t be involved in the community like I am now,” Shanoss said.
The importance of the event was evident in the faces of the more than
40 people who attended and the discussion they had.
“I think women in this community are 80 to 90 per cent responsible for holding this community together,” Dr. Peter Newberry, Storytellers’ board member, said.
“It’s quite remarkable really.”
The main benefit to the event was summed up by Shirley Muldon.
“I’ve known the women interviewed for a long time,” she said.
“But now I feel like I really know them, I feel closer to them.”
The interviews will be made available online through the Storytellers’ website at upperskeena.ca.