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Grade Level: Grade 4/5 (Can be modified for Primary and Intermediate)

Activity: Students will learn what a “copper” is and what it is used for in Kwakwaka’wakw ceremony

Estimated Time: 2 periods

Prescribed Learning Outcomes:

  • Economy and Technology
    • D1 Compare bartering and monetary systems of exchange
    • D2 Describe technologies used by Aboriginal people in BC and Canada

Resources Required

Section of Website containing relevant information, photographs and film clips:

Blackline Masters:

Audio Clips:

Film Clips:

Kwak´wala Language Component:

New Words

Maya’xala - treat someone or something good, the closest word that defines maya’xala in the English language is “respect”. It is respect for all living beings, human, animals or plants, for things and for oneself.

T´łakwa (Copper) - a shield made of the copper metal that every chief shows when he hosts a potlatch.

Wealthy - being rich; having lots of money to buy valuable possessions and property.

Regalia - the special clothing and accessories used by certain dancers and celebrants during potlatches and other ceremonies which could include; neck rings, wristlets and anklets, headpiece, cedar bark skirt, button blanket, dance apron, etc.

Period 1/2- T´łakwa - Copper

Have students look at the pictures of the T´łakwa (coppers) on BLM 3A. What do they notice about the coppers that each of the people are carrying in each picture? Note that all the people in the four pictures are in their regalia (special ceremonial clothing which is used during potlatches and other ceremonies.) Three of the pictures are black and white and one is coloured, what does that tell us about these coppers? (It is important to note that the colour photo was taken just 8 years ago, which shows that coppers are still used today within Kwakwaka’wakw ceremonies.)

Next, show the video clip Potlatch Means To Give and watch for the use of the copper. Watch out for the man wearing his regalia and holding up the copper in one hand. It is important to note that this particular ceremony takes place at the end of a potlatch when the family has shown all of their treasures, just before they are ready to give away the gifts to their guests for witnessing the potlatch.

Introduce information from T´łakwa (coppers) fact sheet BLM 3B. It is important to note that coppers held great value to the chief who owned them. Listen to the Audio Clip - Copper where Pauline Alfred shares copper information. Look at the names of the coppers, what do you notice about the names listed? On this list the first five names have T´łakwa at the beginning of their names. This is not always the case. Some coppers have names telling of their great importance. The different sections of a copper or the body of the copper are given names, for example the “T” or crosspiece is considered the backbone, the larger top section is the face — just like how we have names for our different body parts.

Have students discuss questions on BLM 3C and look at BLM 3D to find the T´łakwa (copper shield) design on the regalia that many of the Hereditary Chiefs and elders are wearing.