Ya'Ya Heit

My real name is Xyadiit. Simoogyet Xyadiit. My cowboy name is Charles Peter Heit Jr. EveryBuddy should call me YA’YA. I am born into the great Gitxsan tribe just like my Mother. My Father is of German blood and comes from Tramping Lake Saskatchewan, his parents came out of Russia in 1898. Dad is very proud of his people and I am so very proud of him and all his loving ways. Both of my families know all about love and pride and they put it all into me as best as they could. They started that when I was such a little guy and they never stop. For all of my life. It all continues because I am putting all the love and pride I can into my children and grandchildren and their children.

My journey to this place started from the great northern Gitxsan jungle. My earliest memories are from the beginning of the Skeena River. I can remember a time when there was hardly any colour there. Very grey-ish. There are no trees in my earliest memories. The Groundhog Mountains were still beautiful, freshly scarped bare by mountains of ice. But still, there was life. Me and my Ancestors were there and very much alive, and we were enjoying the stark beauty of that place, that time. We looked all around and we saw from under those mountains of ice came the mighty Ax Xsan, the mighty Skeena River. And in that river of life came the spring salmon, all that way to the very beginning of the Ax Xsan, the river of mist, the Skeena River. That was thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of years ago. Today those fish still make their journey all the way up there, to the beginning of that misty river we Gitxsan call Ax Xsan. The river of mists. We were surviving there thanks to our great Gitxsan fish. The big and strong and generous Ye’a hon. From all Gitxsan mountain tops you can see, it is truly a wonderful beautiful river of mists. Up there the mighty Skeena river is only a few inches deep. That is where my journey to here started. Many Many thousands of years ago. That is the truth witnessed by my Ancestors, and they told it all to me. And now I give those words of true history to all of you. So that you will remember for all of your lives. And so that you will give my words to your little ones. So they will start to learn Native Pride. My Ancestors never die. They live in me. I am my own Ancestors. All of us Natives are our own Ancestors. We live today, making histories for our little ones to learn. The Vancouver Native Education Collage was built to help us all with that, to help ourselves and to help shape the future of our little ones.

I came south to the Vancouver Native Education Collage to learn what I do not know. I am learning to engrave metals and join metals together, to make more beautiful jewelry. NorthWest Coast Indian jewelry. I am learning to set stones into wonderful fascinating metals, I am learning all that and more, And more and more Native Pride. I just can’t learn enough about that.  Yesterday I was sitting at the NEC Awards Ceremonies with my biggest smiles and greatest happiness as I witnessed many many awards being given to deserving students. Each recipient came to NEC to change their life with knowledge, and Native Pride. The staff of NEC delivers all those many kinds of knowledges, and the greatest Native Pride. That is what I saw and that is what I felt. This great welling up inside of me, I know, it is my Ancestors feeling the same Native Pride. We were being filled up with Native Pride at the Vancouver Native Education Collage. I enjoy to hear words of each student, a bit of their lives as told by Jason and Jason. And they told us all about the donors of the awards. The Native Pride that motivates them to give. To give recognition and love, and to give all their Native Pride. Me and my Ancestors sat there listening and feeling and learning. So many awards for my NEC school. I will never forget. The best part of that was to witness my four class mates get up and receive honours and awards. I have been with them for 6 months now and will be with them another month, watching them, helping them, learning from them. We have been learning a bit about jewelry making and painting and drawing and getting along together. And we have been the happiest learning all about the great NEC Native Pride. Congratulations to Charlene Johnny and Lloyd Harms and Sean Whonnock, and two Gitxsan ladies, Michelle Stoney and Wilma Jr.!!

The NEC staff and all the students and every person who comes here to share their time here, and to share all your knowledges. Every single one of your is teaching me great Native Pride. You fill me up and still I thirst for more. Every day. Every day I wake up happy. This morning I am the happiest as I remember yesterday. Remembering and thanking Robert Tait and Mrs. Robert and their happy proud family, Three generations of proud Tait’s came to the Native Education Collage to meet me and award me the first ever Robert Tait Memorial Bursary. For all that and more, I am thankful. Every day. On behalf of all my Ancestors I thank you every day and we give to all of you, all of our ancient Gitxsan Native Pride. All of our love we give to all of you and we give it all with the greatest Native Pride. So that you will remember for all of your lives and so that you will give all of that to your little ones. Fill them up with Native Pride when they are young. Fill them up every day. And bring them to the NEC. That is why this Native Education Collage was built, built by our Native Ancestors so we could share knowledge and so we can share great Native Pride.