Nawalakw is a well-rounded social venture
in the Kwakwaka̱’wa̱kw Territory of the
Great Bear Rainforest of British Columbia.
Envisioned as a dual-purpose, world-class eco-tourism lodge on the Hada River estuary during the summer, the project will deliver traditional healing programs and teachings in all aspects of the Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw language and culture for the balance of the year, largely sustained by profits from the Nawalakw Lodge and Healing Village to fund programming.
This multi-phase project will create presence and environmental stewardship in our traditional territory and create pride in our people.
Nawalakw and related businesses will employ over 100 people from local villages and the surrounding Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw territory, while protecting the biodiversity of this sacred place, and ensuring its legacy lives on in our children and children yet unborn.
about our vision
Our communities have experienced waves of generational trauma that have left lasting impacts. We believe now is the time for healing, to reconnect to our language and land. Healing for Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw youth begins with a reconnection to our language and pride in our cultural heritage.
We believe in building a future that respects our connection to the land, air and sea, firmly rooted in our responsibility of stewardship, while building a robust and prosperous economy. We acknowledge and prioritize the role of our environment as a critical foundation for serving the physical, emotional, mental, spiritual and economic needs of our people. Our vision is to reassert our presence on our territory, hold our traditional stewardship roles of our lands, and reconnect to our culture and language.
Nawalakw will serve as a catalyst for social change and become the first place on earth where Kwak’wala is again spoken fluently by everyone.
our phased approach
Nawalakw Culture Camp
Following initial fundraising and tremendous momentum since the project’s inception in 2019, construction for Phase One of the project is complete. We celebrated the grand opening of our Language & Culture Camp at Hada, hi’ma̱nis ḵ̓aḵ̓ut̓ła̱’at̓si, in July 2022. The 2400 sq. ft solar-powered camp has capacity for 24 students, teachers, and support staff for year-round cultural and language revitalization programs.
Healing Village and Sustainable Destination Development
Our purpose is to be a force for good, to create a thriving community and protect the lands of our ancestors for generations to come. In this spirit, our programs will provide healing and wellness for our people and our lands in a sustainable way.
The second development phase will expand the site to include a main lodge, individual cabins, wellness centre, outdoor facilities, an interpretive centre and a healing village. These facilities will be designed to provide early immersion language, training and certification programs, and healing programs in partnership with BC First Nations Health Authority.
To support ongoing and expanded language and healing programming, we will welcome and connect visitors to this supernatural territory by sharing our stories, our challenges, our efforts – and of course – our culture. To us the most important part of this journey is an immersive experience, by keeping things simple, authentic and enriching. Our supernatural lands create space for day-to-day concerns to fade into the background, bring perspective, and shift our values.
Nawalakw Interpretive Centre
An interpretive centre, retail space and gallery showcasing local artists, and housing for those doing land stewardship programs at Nawalakw are part of our long-term plans.
Visit Friends of Nawalakw for more information about direct financial ways to support our vision.
now is the time
For a cultural and economic revival of the surrounding communities.
To reinvigorate the Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw language and culture.
To become the first place on earth where kwak̓wala, a language on the brink of extinction, will once again be spoken fluently by youth and elders alike.
To create Indigenous-led businesses as a force for good in our community.
To balance purpose and profits.
To create a model that can and will be replicated by other Indigenous communities anywhere else in the world.
K’odi Nelson, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Hereditary chief, adventure guide, and language and culture teacher, K’odi is the Nawalakw founder and visionary. Hailing from Alert Bay, BC, K’odi is an internationally renowned cultural steward of the Kwakwaka̱’wa̱kw. A sought-after dancer and song-keep who has mastered all the great dances of the Kwakwaka̱’wa̱kw, he is an accomplished artist and often designs traditional regalia for Potlatches and commissions.
Prior to founding Nawalakw, K’odi was lead tour guide for Sea Wolf adventures, an indigenous-owned adventure tour operator and also the Kwakwakwa’wakw cultural leader and language teacher at the Gwa’sa̱la Nak̓waxda’x̱w school.
K’odi is a former pro-soccer player, playing in the Canadian Soccer League for the Winnipeg Fury in 1993.
“The first Nations people have endured successive waves of traumatic disruption that have threatened our very existence. My hope and dream is that Nawalakw will serve as a catalyst for social change and become the first place on earth where the kwak̓wala language is again spoken immersively.”
Verna Ambers, FOOD SECURITY MANAGER
Bio coming soon!
Edwina Rufus, FOOD SECURITY COORDINATOR
Bio coming soon!
Scott Rogers, ADVANCEMENT ASSOCIATE
Scott believes in building community through co-operation and supporting healthy ecosystems through collaboration. She is passionate about connecting people to opportunities on the land and sea of the south central coast and about working with the communities in place. She has nineteen years of conservation stewardship program experience, ten years of managing community based non- profits, and fifteen years of board governance experience for various charities. She is a founder of Sea to Cedar and Salmon Coast Field Station, and current board member, and has a BSc in ecology and environmental studies.
Kelsey Nelson, CAMP OPERATIONS MANAGER
BIO COMING SOON!
Glen Johnson, CAMP MAINTENANCE/CARETAKER
Hello and G̱ilakas’la
I am Glen Johnson, my bak̓wa̱m name is Tłiłalg̱umlilas. My granparents were Sarah (Nelson) and Bill Johnson.
I hail from Musgamagw Dzawada`enuwx and Kwikwasut`inux Haxwa`mis First Nation.
I am very excited to be working as the camp maintenance/caretaker, the variety of work at Nawalakw allows me to utilize my varried work experiences.
Going forward up I am really looking forward to learning and being immersed in my culture.
I believe every day is an opportunity to learn, grow and teach.
Dale Peterson, CAMP COOK
BIO COMING SOON!
Michelle Alfred, FINANCIAL & ADMINISTRATIVE SUPERVISOR
Michelle Alfred, Nawalakw Office Manager, comes to us with 30+ years of experience. Starting her career after graduating from BCIT in Business Management. She has held management positions with Alert Bays local Credit Unions and later at Namgis First Nation, in the Accounting Department. Her style of management through leadership skills and understanding of accounting creates a calming, supportive and steady pace in the office. Michelle enjoys being part of a family team environment that is committed to reconnecting people to traditional teachings and feeling good about who you are – this is what ultimately lead to her to work for Nawalakw.
Eleanor Barnes, ACCOUNTS PAYABLE CLERK
BIO COMING SOON!
Dorienne Prevost, ACCOUNTS CLERK & DIGITAL MEDIA COORDINATOR
BIO COMING SOON
Felicia Greekas, MANAGER, MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS
BIO COMING SOON!
Christine Marks, COMMUNICATIONS ASSOCIATE
A veteran of international corporate communications and marketing, Christine started her career in marketing, taking on successive roles with increasing responsibility, eventually leading marketing for the global software division at Vancouver high-tech success story Creo, which was acquired by Kodak in 2004. She joined a boutique communications agency in 2005 as Director of Client Services and senior account strategist for Finning, Goldcorp, Silver Wheaton, Westminster Savings Credit Union, HSBC, and Justice Institute BC, amongst others.
In 2008, she joined the natural resources industry in an investor relations capacity and ultimately led communications and external affairs at Vancouver’s Goldcorp Inc., one of the world’s top gold mining companies. In addition to communications, she oversaw Goldcorp’s extensive corporate community philanthropy portfolio that granted over $50 million to programs supporting health, education, inclusion, community development and arts and culture. Goldcorp was acquired by US-based Newmont in 2019.
Christine is an avid community volunteer. She currently serves as vice-chair on the board of Minerva Foundation and supports the Mining for Miracles Committee that has raised nearly $30 million for BC Children’s Hospital over the years. She also devotes time to Special Olympics BC, Dress for Success Vancouver and various programs that seek to advance women in business.
Christine has a BA in Communications from Simon Fraser University and has completed executive education at Columbia University.
Shadow Alfred, MEDIA COORDINATOR
BIO COMING SOON!
Bill Wasden Sr., GRANT WRITER
Hello, I have been hired as a proposal writer for the Nawalakw Healing Society as of July 1, 2020
I am a member of the gig̱a̱lgam namima of the ‘Na̱mg̱is First Nation and my traditional name is Sebekola. My background is quite extensive in First Nations Government serving as Executive Director of the Musgamakw Tsawataineuk Tribal Council for 12 years as well as Band Manager for the Da̱’naxda’x̱w First nation for 10 years.
I graduated from Alert Bay Elementary Senior Secondary High School many years ago and from there I went on to be a logger, fisherman, construction worker, carpenter, shipwright and truck driver then returned to school at the University of Victoria to get my Certificate in Administration of Aboriginal Governments.
My main interest of recreation lies with my coaching/elder position with the Native Indian Football Association and our very successful touring of the world for the love of the “beautiful game” resulting in two World Indigenous Games gold medals and the title of “Indigenous World Champions”.
Melissa Marsh, MANAGER, PEOPLE & POSSIBILITIES
BIO COMING SOON!
Deanna Nicolson, LANGUAGE PROGRAMS, PROGRAM COORDINATOR
Ikawegi’lakw (Deanna Nicolson, nee Barnes) is our Language Program Director at Nawalakw. Her paternal roots are from Scotland, Fort Rupert and Alert Bay (Barnes, Hunt and Cook families) and her maternal roots are from Village Island, Alert Bay and Musgamakw Dzawada’enuxw territories (Beans, Alfred, Dawson and Coon families). She was born in Vancouver and grew up in Alert Bay, moving away to pursue post-secondary education in Victoria, BC. She earned business degrees and a master’s degree of education with a specialization in Indigenous language revitalization from the University of Victoria. Ikawegi’lakw has worked professionally in the fields of business, education and language revitalization, serving numerous member-bands, Indigenous schools and organizations, creating curriculum resources and coordinating language classes. She lives with her husband Gwi’molas and four sons: Ha’malagalis, Tsaxw’id, ‘Malas and K’esugwi’lakw and has a very happy heart to be here at Nawalakw.
ikawegi’lakw (Maker of Good Things)
Pewi Alfred, LANGUAGE PROGRAM MANAGER
DOROTHY “PEWI” ALFRED is 45 years old from the ʼNa̱mg̱is First Nation from Nimpkish Valley and Alert Bay. Her traditional name is Ḵaminawadzi “Great Throwing Power”. She is renowned for her singing and dancing abilities amongst the Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw. She has been bestowed with many names, dances and songs on various sides of her noble ancestry. Her father Wayne Alfred and brother Marcus Alfred are master carvers and renowned traditional dancers, from the ʼNa̱mg̱is tribe. Her mother is Brenda nee Smith from the noble Smith and Speck families of Ławit̕sis First Nation- Turnour Island. Pewi has been initiated into one of the highest dance orders called Hiligax̱ʼste’, the female attendant of the most sacred Hamat̕sa Society.
Pewi is one of the driving forces at teaching and passing down of dances, songs, and kwak̓wala language to the next generations at the village of Alert Bay. She is also an accomplished artist and the
proud Mother of her 19 year old son Michael Johnathan Wayne Moon
Gloria Hunt, LANGUAGE SUPERVISOR
Yo! Nugwa’a̱m K̓wak̓wabalas. Gayutła̱n lax̱a Kwagu’ł dłu’ ławit̓sis is dłu’ Ma’a̱mtagila. Gayutła̱n lax̱ ‘Ya̱lis. Ḵ̓aḵutł̓aṉ laxa̱ University of Vancouver Island lax Snuneymuxw.
Hello! My traditional name is K’wak’wabalas. I am from the Kwagu’l, ławit̓sis, and Ma’a̱mtagila tribes of the Kwakwaka̱’wa̱kw. I am from Alert Bay. I am going to learn at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo. My English name is Gloria Hunt. I am one of the five Language Apprentices that are developing and delivering language curriculum as part of the Nawalakw Culture Project. I am currently in my fifth and final year of the Bachelor of Education program and will be graduating in June of 2021. I have been fortunate to grow up in Alert Bay where I was fully surrounded by our culture, language, and traditions in almost every aspect of my everyday life. I was a part of the T̓sasała Cultural Group which helped me in learning our songs, dances, and teachings around our ceremonies. I also attended T̓łisa̱lagi’lakw School from Nursery to Grade 7 where I was able to be even more fully surrounded by our culture, traditions, and language everyday and is where I really developed a passion for keeping these important aspects of who we are alive for future generations. I was a part of the Kwak̓wala Public Speaking Club while attending T̓łisa̱lagi’lakw School also where I was able to build on my knowledge of our language and learn how to become comfortable speaking it out loud in front of a group of people. I also picked up the love I have for weaving at a very young age while I was attending T̓łisa̱lagi’lakw School and I have continued to learn as much as I can, which now includes Chilkat and Ravenstail weaving which I began learning in 2016. Within the past 6 years, I have been able to continue passing on my knowledge of weaving to people of all ages, from 4 years old to 80 years old, during weaving workshops I have facilitated at Elementary Schools, Highschools, Universities, community events, and to my own family members while preparing for potlatches and feasts. I am excited to be continuing on my language learning journey and living and breathing my passion for language revitalization and keeping our culture and teachings alive with the Nawalakw Culture Project. Olak̓ala̱n mu’la! I am really grateful!
Darryl Dawson, LANGUAGE APPRENTICE
Gayaxalasame (Darryll Dawson) is a proud member of the Musgamakw Dzawada’enuxw First Nation of Kingcome Inlet. Growing up in Kingcome, Darryll was exposed to hearing his Native language spoken while living with and being around his grandparents Oy and Beverly Lagis. As a young boy Darryll took interest in his culture learning how to dance from his grandfather Thompson (Oy) Lagis at the age of 4.
Darryll’s interest in culture sparked a lifelong learning journey into exploring what it is to be a descendent and member of the Musgamakw Dzawada’enuxw Nation. Gayaxalasame takes great pride in knowing and understanding songs, dances, and ceremonies, as well as learning the history of the Musgamakw Dzawada’enuxw Nation. He is recognized as a singer and dancer, attending Potlatches and Feasts within the Kwakwaka’wakw Nations. Darryll is also a Native artist, learning from Kwakwaka’wakw artist, Victor Newman, when he was a student at Victoria High School. In 2010, he continued his learning journey under the guidance of Kwakwaka’wakw artist and Hereditary Chief Rande Cook, followed by an apprenticeship with Master Carver John Livingston.
Throughout adulthood Darryll has taught what he has learned to the next generation and to anyone willing to learn. He started as a substitute cultural teacher at the Lilawagila school in Kingcome, eventually becoming a full-time teacher at the school where he taught classes in art, singing and dancing. He makes sure to pass on history lessons on the Musgamakw Dzawada’enuxw Nation to his students and anyone else who has an interest in learning.
Darryll was fortunate to learn from and be inspired by many knowledgeable cultural leaders, including Mike Willie and William Wasden, who taught him many traditional songs, legends and shared their vast cultural knowledge. Several other great influences on Darryll include Kodi Nelson, Wayne Alfred and Marcus Alfred who shared singing, dancing and cultural knowledge with Gayaxalasame. Darryll had many other connections to learning his history, from elders to knowledge keepers within the Kwakwaka’wakw Nation.
Growing up in Kingcome enhanced a passion for soccer and it became a huge part of my life. I have traveled all over the world to play soccer. I played for the Canadian NIFA Women’s soccer team and we won gold in the First World Indigenous Games located in Brazil in the year 2015. We won gold again in Alberta in the Second World Indigenous Games year 2017.
I completed the Canadian Outdoor Leadership Program Spring of 2021. We did canoeing, kayaking, mountaineering, rock climbing, swift water rescuing, and wilderness first aid. I started working with Nawalakw Healing Society as soon as I finished the program. I had the privilege of being a part of their Culture project as an Outdoor-Ed guide during the summer and fall with our youth and elders. I gained relationships and special bonds with our youth and elders that came out to the culture camps in Hada (Bond Sound). The work we are doing out there is absolutely amazing, and so rewarding. I strongly believe that connecting to the land is healing for our people. I enjoy participating with our youth, elders and staff in healing, learning and growing as a people. Since working in Hada as an Outdoor-Ed guide, a passion for learning our language, history, songs, and dances started growing more and more every day spent out there.
I am now a language apprentice for the Nawalakw Healing Society. My language and cultural goals are to become a part of helping our language and culture survive in all aspects. Whatever knowledge I gain, I will pass onto another.
Maya’x ̱al ̱an ̱x ̱an i’a ̱xale dłu’wida g ̱anganan ̱am dłu ḵ̕w ̱alsḵ̕w ̱al’yakw.
Olak̕al ̱an mu’la’!
I love working with children and elders and I am really grateful!
Trevor Isaac, LANGUAGE APPRENTICE
BIO COMING SOON!
Markus Griesser, BUSINESS PLANNER
Having lived and worked in British Columbia for close to 28 years, Markus created and implemented strategic business plans for boutique hotels and resorts and was involved in the development of new properties, hotel expansions and business turn-arounds. Markus re-positioned and expanded a family-run enterprise to establish it as an award-winning five-star resort and RevPAR leader; the business was the recipient of the “Best Resort in North America” award by Conde Nast Traveler Magazine’s Gold List and “Best Hotel in North America” award by Travel & Leisure Magazine. He conceptualized and opened a waterfront boutique hotel on Vancouver Island, including meeting, spa & fitness, food & beverage facilities, an art gallery and marine discovery centre. Previous consulting work includes a business turn-around plan to transform a fishing property into a leading eco-tourism lodge in Belize. Most recently, Markus opened and managed a $250 million, 600,000 square foot open-air regional shopping centre over a six-year period, recognized by the International Council of Shopping Centres with the Maple Leaf Gold and Silver awards. Markus served as Vice Chair of Tourism Victoria for four years (chairing the Finance Committee), Strata Chair of a mixed-use development, as well as founding board member of the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre (chairing the Marketing Committee).Industry association memberships include International Council of Shopping Centres, Building Owners and Managers Association, BC Shopping Center Association, Urban Land Institute BC.
Tamara Alfred, MANAGER, TRAINING & EMPLOYMENT
Nugwa’am Nax’Na’gam. My name is Rising of the Dawn. My colonial name is Tamara Alfred. I am the great great granddaughter of late Chief Johnny Scow, Great Granddaughter of Hereditary Chief Willam D. Scow – Umbu, and Granddaughter of late Hereditary Chief Vincent Henry Scow, and mother of young Hereditary Chief Anthony Alfred of the Kwikwasutainukw people. I am a Nelson and Johnson on my Grandmother Caroline Scow’s side. Her mother was Annie Nelson (nee Johnson – great cedar bark weaver), and her father Roy Nelson. I am a proud and strong Musgamagw woman.
I am the mother of two beautiful children. My Son, Anthony Alfred Jr. is 15 years old and loves school and music. My Daughter is 13 years old, loves boxing and is very outgoing. My husband is Tony Alfred. He’s my best friend, and the love of my life. We’ve been together for 20 years, it’s been a beautiful journey with him by my side. We have a wolf/husky and her name is Ginger, she’s getting up there in age now, but so loving. Also, we have a black cat – Church (He’s a funny little guy).
In my younger years, I was brought up in our traditional and cultural ways. I am a traditional singer and a dancer. When I sing, I feel power. When I dance, I feel light – like I’m floating, and there is good energy around me. I was taught to see the good in people and things, and I have done my best to do so.
I have worked with youth in various roles for the majority of my career.
I sit on the board of directors for the Indigenous Justice of BC, and the Restorative Justice of BC. Our people, especially our youth, need support in many areas. Bringing back our traditional ways of healing, our ways of supporting one another, making connections with our own – and most importantly, transferring knowledge from our knowledge keepers – these are all so important.
The time is now to be proud of our ancestral heritage and to learn the ways of our ancestors. Taking the first step with the support of our loved ones will get us all there.
Rachael Hamilton, ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT, TRAINING & EMPLOYMENT
Bio coming soon!
Allen Souch, BOAT DRIVER
BIO COMING SOON
Keith Dawson, DECK HAND/CAMP ASSISTANT
BIO COMING SOON
Seasonal Youth Workers
Nawalakw continues to support youth employment with the annual youth summer employment program.
From building garden boxes, to assisting with traditional food harvesting, language programs, and supporting the build of our Culture Camp, Nawalakw is grateful for the wonderful positive energy and skills our youth provide while working as part of the Nawalakw youth employment program.
The concept of the central design is the sun’s core with four circles representing the Musga’makw Dzawada̱’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 Musga’makw Dzawada̱’enux̱w. Each ancestor has an equal space completing the ring, symbolizing equality and unity. The bottom figure is the face of Ts̕eḵam̱a’yi ‘Head Winter Dancer’, the Shaman ancestor of the Ḵwikwa̱sutinux̱ ‘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. Ts̕eḵam̱a’yi’s hands with palms facing forward connect to the two ancestral wolf brothers Ḵawadiliḵa̱la ‘Listened To’ and Kwa̱lili ’Slow in The House’. These two brothers are the ancestors of the Dzawada̱’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 Gayaxala ‘Coming Down from Above’, the ancestral Thunderbird of the Gwawa’enuxw ‘Hopetown People’. The Thunderbird has spiral horns indicating its ability to transform and supernatural power. Gayaxala 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 Kawadilikala chanted over sacred down feathers and transformed them 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 colours chosen to decorate the design are red, yellow, black and white. These colours connect to the four races of people that share this universe. The colours are distributed evenly, again symbolizing equality and unity. Red is the colour of life and nobleness. Yellow is the colour of growth and renewal. Black is the colour of supernatural and protection. White is the colour 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. Ts̕eḵam̱a’yi had the power over life and death.
Ts̕eḵam̱a’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. Ts̕eḵam̱a’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 the Creator.
Designed by Chief Wax̱a̱widi, William Wasden Jr.
how to partner with us
We are deeply grateful for the local and global partners we have met on this journey so far. We approach all we do with gratitude. If you can vividly imagine a way that we can work together, and share in this spirit of gratitude, then it can happen. The connections we have made are not accidental. Reach out and let us know if you have an idea – we also enjoy specific proposals!
Connect with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We gratefully acknowledge the visionary organizations and individuals who share our passion and support our mission.