“Long ago, the Ditidaht people found a whale that had washed up on the beach, with a Makah …
“Long ago, the Ditidaht people found a whale that had washed up on the beach, with a Makah harpoon stuck in its side. Since the whale belonged to the Makah people, they prepared for a journey to bring the whale back. Upon their arrival, they were invited to a potlatch with the Makah people. During a song and dance, a rattle that was gifted to the Ditidaht people was dropped and it broke apart. The Ditidaht people swiftly left and paddled away in their canoes before the Makah were able to begin battle over this broken rattle. Upon returning back to their territory, the Ditidaht chief directed his people up the river towards Nitinaht Lake. When he saw an eagle swoop down and grab a salmon from the river, he decided that this is where his people would live.”
Jimmy Chester was born in a village near Nitinaht, where his people have lived for centuries, in 1940 with no doctors present. Jimmy’s name was passed down from his Grandfather, although in traditional Nuuh Chah Nulth language, his name translates to “everybody is talking about me”. Growing up, no English was spoken in his home. Jimmy did not attend school, but learned everything he knows from his Grandfather, who was a whaler in his village. He taught Jimmy how to carve harpoons with mussel shell spears to hunt whales, and paddles for their canoes. At the age of two, Jimmy composed his first song, which led to a life time of singing, dancing, and carving.
Still living in the same village where he was born, Jimmy is now retired, but spent decades teaching the youth in his village their traditional language, culture, and history. He has built long houses, canoes, and other artwork that has been purchased by collectors and museums around the world. He is still invited to potlatches across the Nuuh Chah Nulth Nation to sing and dance and tell stories. At the age of 74, Jimmy has 10 children, 25 grandchildren, and 15 great grandchildren, whom he has passed down all of his knowledge to. Many of his family are now well established artists who accredit their talents to the wisdom and teachings of Jimmy.