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Wooshjix̱oo Éesh u.éex'

Saturday, September 30, 2023 I Yakutat, Alaska

Seating begins at 5 PM

Ceremony begins at 6 PM

From Sealaska Heritage Institute Approximately a year after a person dies, the clan of the deceased holds a ceremony. This ceremony is called a ku.éex’ in Tlingit, wáahlaal in Haida and loolgit in Tsimshian. It is sometimes known as a pay-off party or potlatch, which is a word from the Chinook Jargon. Today, Native Elders have asked the younger tribal members not to use the word potlatch. They have asked them to use their own tribal names for the ceremonies. During a ceremony, the deceased and the ancestors of a clan are remembered. It is a time for the clan members to end a year of mourning. The ceremony is held to remove grief. The ceremony is a time for people to get together with their kin. It is a time to honor the opposite moiety. The opposite moiety comforts the grieving clan. The clan of the deceased repays the opposite moiety. Ceremonies used to last several days. Today, ceremonies are shorter. Today, cash and other western goods are used during the ceremony. The ceremony is not the same in all communities. There are steps that are followed during a ceremony. The naa káani is the moderator of the ceremony. The naa káani is from the guest clan. He is hired by the host clan. The host clan directs the naa káani through the ceremony. At the beginning of a ceremony and during the ceremony, members of the guest clan give money to the host clan and moiety. This is done unobtrusively. This part is done publicly. The host clan’s regalia are put on a table at the front of the room. Pictures of the deceased clan member are put on the table. The host clan welcomes the guests. The guests are from the opposite clan. Traditionally, the guest clan helps the host clan members to put on their regalia. They helped people put black marks on their faces. They helped the people to put on their black headbands. This would happen during the mourning ceremony. Traditionally, members of the host clan would sing four grieving songs. They would sing two songs if the ceremony was for one person or a child. If another clan member died, and another ceremony is planned for the same clan later in the same year, some mourning songs are left unfinished. The songs are finished during the final ceremony of the year, for that clan. The guest clan listens during this part of the ceremony. Next, the clan Elders of the guest clan offer words of support. They sing their songs to remove grief. They display their clan regalia. The host clan asks the guest clan members to take off their black scarves and paint. This wipes away the grief and mourning. When the mourning part of the ceremony is over, the ceremony becomes happier. The host clan prepares fire bowls. The fire bowls are filled with gifts. The names of the ancestors are called before the fire bowls are given out. The fire bowls are then given to selected guests from the guest clan who supported the grieving family. A member of the guest clan shows photographs of the deceased to each of the guests. Next, the first meal is served. Younger members of the host clan and moiety serve the guests. Members of the guest clan may dance or sing to show their thanks. In Tlingit, they say “Gunalchéesh ho ho,” meaning “Thank you very much.” This means that the guests are totally satisfied. The host clan then gives goods to the guests. The naa káani holds up bowls of fruit. He calls the names of guests who were chosen by the host clan. Each guest says, “Here!” A member of the host clan puts the bowl of fruit on the table in front of the guest called. The other guests grab for the fruit from the bowl. This is a fun time during the ceremony. Often a second meal is served after the fruit has been distributed. The guests may sing and dance during this time to show their thanks. Next, men from the host clan enter, carrying a large container filled with berries. They sing a song as they enter. The women of the clan follow the men, singing the same song. The host clan serves the berries to the guests. The host clan gives the guest moiety gifts of traditional Native foods. They may give jars of fish, seal, deer meat, berries, and jams. They may also give store-bought foods. If another meal is to be served, it is served at this time. The guests may sing and dance at this time to show their thanks. Next is the money bowl part of the ceremony. Members of the guest clan collect and count the money given to the host clan. They sit at a table at the front of the room. They have large money bowls in front of them. First, members of the same moiety but from different clans collect money from the members of the guest clan. The host moiety members acknowledge each person who contributed money. Members of the host clan and the deceased family also acknowledge those who contributed money. Finally, they put their money into the bowls. The money counters add up the money. They give the total amount contributed to the naa káani. The naa káani calls out the total amount of money given by each moiety member. He also calls out the total amount of money contributed. At different times during a ceremony, dances are performed. For example, a grandchild of the same moiety as the host clan does a spirit The dance tells a clan story. At this stage in the ceremony, the host clan ceremonially “kills the money.” The money is now dedicated to the deceased and to the ancestors. After this, the money is distributed to all members of the guest moiety. All guest clan leaders get larger payments. Also, those who helped with special tasks get larger payments. This would include pall bearers, grave diggers, cooks, night watchers, hunters, fishermen, and singers. After all of the food and goods have been distributed, the host clan leader may introduce individuals from his clan to all of the participants of the ceremony. Newborn children of the host clan may also be introduced. The names of the newborn children are called out at this time. The names are chosen from clan ancestors. A clan name can only be given by the clan members of that clan. This may involve getting permission from the clan leader or grandparents. The naa káani holds the money on the children’s foreheads. He calls out the names of the children. The guests repeat the names. This is done three times for each child. The naa káani then gives the money to a person who witnessed the naming ceremony. The witness is responsible for remembering the name and the naming ceremony. Non-clan members are adopted at this time. They are adopted in the same way as the newborns are named. The host clan may sing an exit song or make speeches. The guest moiety can also respond. This provides balance to the ceremony. It is then time for the guests to leave. The ceremony is over.

Request an Invitation for the Ḵu.éex'

Ḵu.éex' for George M. Ramos
Ḵu.éex' for George M. Ramos
Sep 30, 2023, 5:00 PM AKDT
Yakutat, AK, USA

You are responsible for all your expenses, including travel and accommodations.

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