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The Chilkat Blanket

This week's teaching is being offered by Jenn Smith of Tlowitsis First Nation. Last week, Jenn shared part one of this two part series explaining how her family came to be in possession of their Chilkat blanket; you can find it linked here:

This week, she will provide knowledge related to the preservation of the family's blanket, and explain how they continue to use it in ceremony today!

"My Great-Grandfather Oodzee-stahl-lees was a great man. He passed away when I was only three years old, but I’ve heard many stories of his strength, beautiful nature, respectful demeanour and love for everyone. He was also an integral part of keeping Kwakwaka’wakw culture alive during the Potlatch Ban, which lasted from 1885 – 1951. Oodzee-stahl-lees was the Emcee at the largest known Potlatch on the coast in 1921 where 45 people were arrested for participating.

My Great-Grandfather came to me during a healing ceremony in 2016, wearing the Chilkat blanket. I was mid-way through my Masters and after I had that vision, I decided I would wear the blanket for my convocation ceremony the following year. The week before my convocation, I visited the museum to meet the curator and see the blanket. I stood in anticipation as the curator fetched the blanket from storage. As it was carefully unrolled from its protective casing, I could feel the sacredness of the blanket – it took my breath away. The gloved curator then carefully draped the blanket on me. I could feel the weight of the blanket, wrapping me with its historical strength. It was an incredibly powerful moment which I’m grateful was captured by the Royal Roads University Communications department.

The following week, I walked across the stage for the conferring of my degree, adorned in my Great-Grandfather’s Chilkat blanket. I wore the blanket as a symbol of my Great-Grandfather’s Leadership as I graduated with a Masters in Health Leadership. I was being celebrated, surrounded by my loving family and my fellow schoolmates; and in turn, I was celebrating a great feat with an incredible piece of my family history. I’m sure my ancestors were smiling down on me that day."

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