SUMMARY: Vancouver Island University’s Masters of Arts in Sustainable Leisure Management student Sara Fulla explores the Kwakwaka’wakw Potlatch as a form of Indigenous leisure. 

NANAIMO, BC: As an Indigenous woman and leisure scholar, VIU Master of Arts in Sustainable Leisure Management student Sara Fulla is merging her two worlds with her research project, which explores leisure in a cultural context.

A recipient of the $17,500 Canada Graduate Scholarships-Master’s award, Fulla has the financial support to continue exploring the Kwakwaka’wakw Potlatch as a form of Indigenous leisure. 

It seems only fitting that Fulla – whose traditional name is ‘Maxw’mawidzamga, which she has been told translates to “Potlatching Woman” – shares the story of her ancestors’ sacred ceremony.

“For many years, non-Indigenous people have been sharing their perspectives and perceptions on the Kwakwaka’wakw Potlatch, and I think it’s time that our own people share our cultural and traditional knowledge,” says Fulla. 

As one of the few Indigenous scholars in her field of study, Fulla recognizes that leisure is often represented through a Western context – but she says there are other ways of knowing.

“Although my people did not have a word for leisure, we practiced it every day in our culture,” she says.

Raised in ‘Yalis, Alert Bay, Fulla grew up immersed in her Kwakwaka’wakw culture. She strongly believes in the importance of continuing her ancestors’ traditions and preserving their language and culture. As a mother of a three-year-old daughter, she sees the value of raising her child with the knowledge of their people.

“I don’t want my culture or language to die. I want our traditions to be practised for another thousand years and more; for my people to continue to sing our melodies and dance our rhythms,” she says. 

Fulla says one way Indigenous communities can preserve and share their culture is through tourism. After completing her master’s degree, she hopes to start her own consulting firm to support Indigenous communities in sharing their stories with tourists in a sustainable and respectful way. 

“In sharing our stories – in whatever capacity and as much as communities feel comfortable with – we can promote understanding between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples,” she says. 

The English translation of the word potlatch means “to give.” Many people believe a wealthy person has a full life; however, through the sacred potlatch ceremony, the Kwakwaka’wakw people celebrate that the person who gives the most away. With Fulla’s research project she hopes to share the knowledge of her ancestors with others to create a more compassionate and understanding way of being for everyone. 

Permalink: https://news.viu.ca/leisure-cultural-context

Photo Caption: VIU Master of Arts in Sustainable Leisure Management student Sara Fulla Photo Credit: Vancouver Island University