“A lot of people had come to up me wondering if I was dead,” joked Wasi Lepka explaining the community’s reaction to news of his Naming Balhats. “The last naming potlach that was here—I don’t know maybe it might have been my mom.”
Balhats were once common in Dakelh culture for all sorts of clan business and celebrations. Now most are held to conduct business for those who have passed. Wasi’s family made the decision to hold his naming balhats several years ago. Janet Besherse is Wasi’s Auntie and the sister of his traditional namesake, the late William Alexander.
Janet explained, “William’s siblings got together and decided that Wasi should take William’s traditional name—Whetjayas.” At William’s balhat in 2014, Wasi handed out cigarettes and announced that he would be taking the name.” The process to get to this point has taken several years.
The Alexander family prefers the traditional balhats, rather than the more modern dinner.
Family members spent the last year preparing dried and canned meat, canned vegetables and berries for the guests along with packaged food and housewares. Bolts of fabric were purchased and cut into strips during the balhats. The fabric was given out so that people could make something in memory of the late William Alexander.
To begin the celebration, each clan danced Wasi into Kwah Hall—first the Lhts’umusyoo (Beaver) Clan, followed by the Lusilyoo (Frog) Clan, then the Lohjabou (Bear) Clan and finally the Kwun Ba Whuten (Caribou) Clan. Amid drumming and singing, hugs and well wishes, Wasi’s Uncle George announced his name as the celebrants circled the hall.
During the next dance around the hall, well wishers pinned money to Wasi’s vest.
Wasi and the celebrants once again danced around the hall during the Berry Dance. The group stopped periodically for jokes and dances with people from each clan. Many kind-hearted jokes about Wasi were shared. One of the most memorable was Elder Mildred Martin who lamented that she was “sixty years too late.”
Wasi was selected for this honor based on his good works within the community. It is a next step on a longer journey towards his leadership role within the clan. As the balhats came to a close, Wasi and Victor West formally asked Julie Jaques from Takla to sew his regalia for when he becomes DeneZa. She agreed.
Victor West and Sandra Tegee were the speakers for the event. They shared memories of William Alexander’s life and contributions to the community.
William Robert Alexander was the son of Albert and Christine Alexander. He was a member of the Beaver Clan.
“When William was born his grandfather brought him down to the river and baptized him right there, very powerful thing that William went through.”
Ludwig Wasi Lepka is the son of Bergie Lepka and Sadie Jarvis. He is a member of the Beaver Clan. Wasi is married to Tanya Stafford. They have two sons—Dominik and Wade.