Nawalakw means “Supernatural” in Kwak’wala, the language spoken in Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw (MD) territory for many thousands of years. The societies mission is to assert Kwakwaka’wakw title for our communities through the creation and sustainable operation of education and wellness facilities in our territory.
The Musgamagw have origin stories that tie us to the territory which we have occupied for millenia. In recent centuries, since contact, our people have endured successive waves of traumatic disruptions that have threatened our very existence. However, at this moment in 2019, we stand looking both to our past and our future. Nawalakw Society will be a catalyst with far reaching implications for the health of our communities and our territory.
K’odi Nelson, Executive Director
K’odi Nelson is the Executive Director of the Nawalakw Society and visionary of Nawalakw Lodge - a healing centre focused on language and culture resurgence that is supported by an ecotourism enterprise. K’odi was born in ʼYa̱lis (Alert Bay), BC in 1973. He is the son of Henry Nelson Jr. from the Musǥa̱’makw Dzawada̱’enux̱w (Four Tribes of Kingcome Inlet) and Elizabeth Dick from the ‘Mama̱liliḵa̱la (Village Island) Nation. K’odi is a renowned dancer who has mastered all the great dances of the Kwakwaka’wakw. He is a striving song keeper and conductor, a position bestowed on him for his love and passion for his culture. K̕odi has received many names during his life such as ‘Maxwiyalidzi (‘Big Potlatch Giver’) and Wawigustolagalitsugwi’lakw ‘No One is Able to Obtain what he has done’, to name a few. He is an accomplished artist and often designs traditional regalia on occasions for Potlatches and commissions. He is also a composer of traditional songs, a gift that is very rare in the present Kwakwaka’wakw world. K̕odi and Alisha Souch are the proud parents of their sons Dallas and Zayden, who are training to carry on their culture.
K’odi has worked with as the lead tour guide for indigenous owned Adventure Tour operator, Seawolf Adventures for the past 3 seasons and simultaneously has been the Kwakwakwa’wakw cultural leader and language teacher at the Gwa’sala Nakwaxda'xw school. He has also worked as a fisherman, a carpenter, and as a professional soccer player.
The concept of the central design is the sun’s core with four circles representing the Musg̱a’makw Dzawada’enux̱w “The Four Tribes of Kingcome Inlet”. The four stylized circles are inspired by an ancient tattoo design symbolizing the face of the sun. The rising sun is the Creator’s promise of another day and a chance for a new beginning, if we choose to take it.
The sun’s ring is designed with the four ancestors of the Musg̱a’makw Dzawada’enux̱w. Each ancestor has an equal space completing the ring, symbolizing equality and unity. The bottom figure is the face of T̓seḵama’yi “Head Winter Dancer”, the Shaman ancestor of the Ḵwiḵwa̱sut̓inux̱w “Gilford Island People”. He is adorned with the sacred red cedar bark, a symbol of his spiritual power and blessings. His headdress also had long cedar bark strands that cascade down from the sides of his unique headpiece. T̓seḵama’yi’s hands with palms facing forward connect to the two ancestral wolf brothers Kawadiliḵa̱la “Listened To” and Kwa̱lili “Slow in The House”. These two brothers are the ancestors of the Dzawada’enux̱w “Kingcome Inlet People” and the Ha̱xwa’mis “Wakeman Sound People”. These two wolves had the ability to transform into humans and also had Shamanistic power. The two wolves tongues reach out and touch the Thunderbird’s horns symbolizing communication and connection. The top figure is Gayax̱a̱la “Coming Down from Above” the ancestral Thunderbird of the Gwawa’enux̱w “Hopetown People”. The Thunderbird has spiral horns indicating its ability to transform and supernatural power. Gayax̱a̱la also had the power to become a human at will.
The outer rays of the design are the rays of the sun. There are four rays as that is the sacred number of our people. The rays project towards the four directions. This connects to the history when Kawadiliḵa̱la chanted over sacred down feathers and transformed it into various species of birds. He told the birds to fly to the ends of the world and they would become the ancestors of other races and their different sounds would become the different languages of the world. The number four is also instilled in our teachings of holistic health and well-being. The four components of our being that we strive to keep in balance are the, mental, physical, emotional and spiritual.
The colors chosen to decorate the design are red, yellow, black and white. These colors connect to the four races of people that share this universe. The colors are distributed evenly, again symbolizing equality and unity. Red is the color of life and nobleness. Yellow is the color of growth and renewal. Black is the color of supernatural and protection. White is the color of spirit and purity.
The sun is the life-force of our world. It follows a sacred journey each day and its appearance in the morning guides our prayers and gratitude to our Creator in the most sacred direction, the east.
T̓seḵama’yi had the power over life and death. T̓seḵa̱ma’yi was blessed with the sacred red cedar bark regalia, our ceremonial protection gifted by our Creator to wear when we want to shift our energy and feel good about who we are. T̓seḵa̱ma’yi’s ceremonies recognize and remind us of the four sacred elements of life, air, water, fire and earth.
Wolves bring the teaching of family and unity. Wolf is the chief of the land animals and is respected by the entire animal kingdom. Wolves also teach us that in order to survive together, there has to be order and a social organization that must be honored by all.
Thunderbirds are messengers and helpers of the Creator. In many of our stories, we are reminded how our ancestors prayed and reached out for help, and the Creator answered by sending mighty Thunderbirds. Thunderbirds remind us of the spiritual protection and power of our Creator and the daily gratitude that we should have for Him.