On July 21st, I was in the Cowichan Valley for the filming of Harold Joe’s new documentary, Tzouhalem. Produced by Les Bland Productions and by Harold himself, the film will attempt to unpack the oral stories and urban legends surrounding the near-mythic figure of Chief Tzouhalem, who Mount Tzouhalem is named after.
What makes this project unique is that Harold is a Quamichan traditional Gravedigger. The Quamichan Nation acknowledges the existence of human and nonhuman spirit entities, so strict protocol is observed during funerals in order to avoid problems with either. Harold’s role often calls upon him to repatriate human remains and to help disembodied ancestors find peace.
Chief Tzouhalem had a complicated relationship with this same spirit world. So who better to investigate the legends surrounding him than someone familiar with his teachings? Tzouhalem was a member of the nation Harold is, as well, which means Harold has access to oral histories no other investigator would ever be able to acquire. Continue reading