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A passion for documenting traditions

Kim Recalma-Clutesi takes a look back at photos that remind her of her role in the 1994 Commonwealth Games. - Auren Ruvinsky photo
Kim Recalma-Clutesi takes a look back at photos that remind her of her role in the 1994 Commonwealth Games.
— image credit: Auren Ruvinsky photo

Qualicum Bay's Kim Recalma-Clutesi is watching the Idel No More protests closely.

The daughter and wife of hereditary chiefs is optimistic they are at east leading to more discussion about First Nation's issues and hopefully traditions and culture.

Recalma-Clutesi, or Oqwi'low'gwa which means generous in her Kwakwqka'wakw nation, studied filmmaking at BCIT in the 1970s and her work led to interesting experiences like associate producing the opening ceremonies for the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria.

She sat at tables with Prime Minister Paul Martin during extensive work on the Kelowna Accord between First Nations and the government and has lectured at universities.

But she has spent much of the past 20 years on her real passion — documenting traditional ecological knowledge (TEK), which earned her the prestigious international 2010 Eco-Trust Indigenous Leadership Award.

Working in the tough world of independent film she used the $25,000 prize to help fund her ongoing work with her husband, clan chief Adam Dick, the last living link to the traditional knowledge of the coastal people.

Dick was hidden from residential schools and trained in their traditions from the age of four and though he is illiterate, the pair have worked on dozens of high level academic papers documenting these traditions.

"We have yet to find a professor that he doesn't match knowledge with in the natural world and the scientific world – geomorphologists, ethnobiologist, botanist, marine biologists, GPs."

Recalma-Clutesi feels the loss of these ancient traditions is one of the roots of the current strife.

"None of this means anything — the political posturing and work means nothing if they forget the basic foundations of who we are."

"Little of our culture is known even to our people today – hence Idle No More. You don't remove children from their families for generations – carried on with different welfare programs, more than half the Ministry of Child and Family Services children are Aboriginal – without loosing that connection."

Those traditions could helpra lot in modern times, she said, explaining how traditional hunting and gathering is not only much healthier, but brings families together and reconnects them with the land.

"You don't have to go back to the ancestral times to be authentic, you can be traditional and use modern technology," she said pointing to her cell phone and computer.

"Even with all this technology around us we still use the same values today," she said of ritual in how people greet and interact with each other. "I think that's why the political world is so hard to embrace, it's minus all of those values, and it's minus respect and trust and accountability to our families."

Asked if she is optimistic she said, "I have to be, I can't afford not to be. The people you can count on one hand who have this knowledge are counting on a small group of us to accurately remember these things."

"It's a race against time, unfortunately, it's a race against time."

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