Edge of the Knife: GingG̲a

GingGa, bathing in cold water for strength, is a practice that spans northwest coast societies. Maternal uncles instill discipline and strength in their nephews by bathing them in the sea and whipping them with hemlock branches when they emerge to toughen their skin. This prepares them for the rigors of life at sea and strengthens their spirit. Haida also bathe privately in the ocean for strength, health, and achievement. In the intensive language training sessions at Hl’yaalan ‘Lngee Hiellen Village several language teachers and learners underwent the ritual every day.

“Bathing in the ocean is a strengthening exercise,” explained language champion and actor K’uyáang Benjamin Young. “This is what you do before going on a long journey. We were embarking on a journey at language boot camp. So we bathe not only for its rejuvenating effects, but also to strengthen us in doing such a remarkable task. In creating this film, we are not putting on a façade of what we used to be, we are portraying who we are now. This is what sustained us and this is what will get us through these two weeks of boot camp.”

“Swimming in the ocean is one of the best ways of clearing your head and getting rid of any burdens that we carry,” said director Jaada Yahlangnaay Helen Haig-Brown. “It’s a way to clean our energies, strength, and spirit. In my territory my grandparents were in the water every day ever since they were babies. Even in winter we would make ice holes. Practicing those ways keeps you really strong and grounded. It is just like eating or sleeping well at night. Purifying ceremonies are a powerful part of staying healthy and strong.”

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