Premiere Performance at the Vancouver Playhouse 1991
Concept development and consultation: Doreen Jensen, Gitksan artist and writer, Michael Ames, Director of the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia and Karen Jamieson
Dancers: Byron Chief Moon, Denise Lonewalker, Virginia Corcoran, Allan Dobbs, Catherine Lubinsky, Hiromoto Ida, Maureen Adam, Charlene Aleck, Kay Huang, Andrew Olewine, Karen Jamieson
Music: Jeff Corness
Costume: Susan Berganzi
Choreography: Karen Jamieson in collaboration with Gitksan artist and consultant Alice Jeffrey and Salish artist and performer Evan Adams and Kenneth Harris, Halbwegath, hereditary chief of the Fireweed clan of the Gitk'san Nation
Songs: Alice Jeffrey
Storyteller: Kenneth Harris, Halbwegath, hereditary chief of the Fireweed clan of the Gitksan Nation
Mixk’ Aax was forerunner to Gawa Gyani. At the time of the premiere of the work, we still had not received permission to name our choreography Gawa Gyani. Permission was required, by Gitksan law, from the House of G’onou and Edgar Good, who owned this hereditary name and Nox Nox spirit of the same name. The whole piece was focused on this concept of Gawa Gyani, meaning a ceremony whereby two sides come together to resolve important differences in a neutral space. But without permission, we could not use the name.
So Ken Harris found another word, Mixk’Aax, with a similar meaning. This word was not owned and we used that for the performance at the Vancouver Playhouse. After this performance, Ken Harris and I traveled to Kitwancool to visit Edgar Good and his brother Godfrey Good, head of the house of Gonou to further our request and provide assurance of right action and integrity in our use of the name. Soon after this we received permission to use the name and the work Mixk’Aax was further developed to include the dancers of Damelehamid, and became Gawa Gyani.
This work was the first step in a series of cross-cultural collaborative works undertaken over the next decade.
Translation of word Mixk’Aax by Gyologyet (Mary McKenzie), Wilp Gyologyet, Lax Gibou early 1980s,
Addressing Gitxsan language interpreter training class, Gitanmaax Hall
(translated by Barbara Sennott, December 5, 2002)
If you send somebody to go and get him, then you have to wait for that person. That chief has to give his answer, whether or not he is coming. If not, well you start without him. But if he is coming you wait. If he comes after the food is served, he is gluk. He has to put on a feast for his embarrassment for being late. That’s why, when the call comes to you, you’ve got to be there. If they take mixk’aax to you, if for some reason you don’t feel right about something, then you have to accept that because the mixk’aax is so valuable. Then, after a time, you have put on a mixk’aax feast and you have to say why you didn’t want to go. If you are in a meeting and you get upset about something and you slam the door, they have to go to you and ask you what the problem is. You have to put on a little smoker like, just so you accept their gratitude to you.