Kúkwpi7 Gélpcal, Lil’wat’s Cultural Chief Ashley Joseph spoke at Whistler TEDx event last month and his talk is now life on youtube! Check it out.
“Have you ever tried to find yourself? I have. Have you ever tried to find what a system has tried to erase for 500 years? Honestly, I’m a bit conflicted about even wanting to. How do you find yourself when you’ve been taught not to like yourself? When a religion told you that everything that makes you unique is bad. When it was a country’s goal to get rid of all that could every truly define you. When every attempt to be yourself was met by numerous forms of abuse.”
I had the privilege of sitting down to interview/chat with Gélpcal just after he first was elected to serve as Cultural Chief for the Lil’wat Nation, and I still haven’t turned that rich conversation into a piece of writing, because it’s still working away on me. And because it feels now, as it felt then, as though there are so many ways I can get it wrong, trying to stand as the filter between a person telling his story and the people encountering that story in the newspaper. I know I do this for a living. I do this all the time. But I’ve realized that, often when I fill in the blanks to flesh out a story, I make assumptions and my assumptions are based on being part of a dominant race in a dominant narrative. Conversations I’ve had with Lil’wat Nation members over the years have been generous and kind reminders that there is so much I assume, and have wrong. I assumed someone had a vehicle when I invited him to lunch. I assumed someone had grown up in the same kind of safe familiar dysfunction I had. I assume that most of us have roughly the same balance of things lifting us up, as weighing us down. Too many assumptions to list. And it’s not just what is unsaid or unspoken or unknown between us. It’s also what feels almost unsayable, for the gravity of it.
Gélpcal speaks with a particular kind of gravity, the gravity of someone who has reflected deeply and loved mightily. We are so fortunate to hear him share in his own words.