A Christmas or Yuletide light up of the Gitwinksihlkw suspension bridge over the Lisims River was sparked by the loss of a community member and is growing bigger and brighter each year, according to one of its founders.
This year’s Light Up Lisims event, now in its 5th year, marks the first year that the lights go all the way across the bridge and down the other side, said Lena Griffin.
“Each holiday season, we string our suspension bridge with lights. All of the lights are donated by community members up and down the Nisga’a River, either through monetary donations, or actual lights,” said Griffin.
“Light Up Lisims started in 2013, because our community had just suffered a great loss. In October of that year, we had lost a very active and valued member of our community. She was a member of our ladies basketball team, she worked in our schools, both Nisga’a Elementary School and Gitwinksihlkw Elementary School, and at the time, was our youth worker. Her sudden passing devastated our entire Nation, and the holidays became dark.”
That person was Paulina Faith Robinson, 20, who “touched so many lives of all ages, very deeply,” added Griffin.
One night, while pondering how to help the communities heal, Griffin and Tanya Azak became inspired to bring some light into this time of darkness by putting lights on the suspension bridge that hangs across the river, now called Light Up Lisims, said Griffin. Lisims is the name of the river that connects the four villages of the Nisga’a Nation, she added.
“But even though this initiative was sparked by a tremendous loss felt throughout our nation, it has kept going in honour of many,” said Griffin.
“Walking down the bridge, you will see many laminated pictures and names of those loved ones who have passed on. Take time to look, remember, and send positive thoughts,” she added, saying that the first picture on the right as people step onto the bridge is the picture of Robinson.
As the holiday season draws nearer, we reflect on past years, and we remember those who have passed on and left us much too early, while also holding close our family that are here with us, said Griffin.
“The Yuletide is a time of celebration and joy for some, and a time of sad reflection for others,” she said.
“Our hope with Light Up Lisims, is to provide comfort and solace by remembering our loved ones past and present, as the lights are lit each night.”
This initiative is community driven. Funds and lights are donated in memory of loved ones who have passed on, she said.
The lights are on each night from about 4:30/5 – 10:30/11.
They will stay lit until January 3. And will be turned on again for the Nisga’a New Year, February 22 – 25.
The Nisga’a also has a Yule Tide Committee, a different society of volunteers each year, that organizes a variety of events to raise funds for the community, so that every child receives a gift from Santa on Christmas Eve, added Griffin.
The funds raised are also used to host a family-friendly New Year’s Eve dance with snacks and games, she said.
Part of the fundraising is the Snow Queen raffle/competition. A representative from each clan (wolf, raven, killerwhale, eagle) is selected, and those contestants sell tickets. The person who sells the most becomes the new Snow Queen.
At the end of November, the reigning Snow Queen and family have the honours of plugging in the lights at the light-up ceremony, said Griffin.
Griffin thanked the Gitwinksihlkw Village Government for its continuous support of this initiative; Nisga’a Pacific Ventures, for allowing the use of its outlet to plug into; Gitwinksihlkw Volunteer Fire Department for assisting with safety precautions; Robin Casey / Casey Electric for assisting with safety precautions and Laxgalts’ap Village Government for a very valuable startup monetary donation at the beginning of the initiative.