Ron Martin is the eighth child of Robert Martin Sr. and Cecelia Martin (née Lucas) of Opitsaht. Opitsaht has been the ancestral home of the Martin family for many generations. It is situated on Meares Island, across from Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Ron’s father, Robert, was a hereditary chief (Ha’withl) of the Tla-o-qui-aht (formerly known as Clayoquot), one of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations.
One of the main roles of a Ha’withl is to serve the people, and this is what Robert taught his sons. The older sons were taught to fish, hunt, and trap. The younger ones had to stay home because the boat wasn’t big enough for all of them.
Ron Martin, the second youngest son, was one who had to stay home, but he was motivated to learn. Robert encouraged his son, telling him, “I’m going to tell you this story. I know you will remember, because you have been given a good memory.” Ron was inspired by his father. He worked hard to remember the details of his father’s teachings and family history.
Ron now lives and works in Hesquiaht, the ancestral home of his mother, as a First Nations administrator and traditional historian. He actively passes on teachings and Tla-o-qui-aht history to younger generations, including his daughter, Courtenay—from whom he can trace back twenty-six generations. In keeping the history alive, he has earned the respect and honour of his family and his community.
The song that is related in this story came from Ron’s grandparents, Nan Nuukmiis and Nan Wii-nuk-iinookx. When Ron was young, he and his brothers and sisters often visited their grandparents. Their Nans would take the drum off the wall and start singing songs for the grandchildren. This particular song, “Waa-yee-seekee aakx kuu,” is one that all in Ron’s family fondly remember. Ron recalls, “When Nan Nuukmiis and Nan Wii-nuk would sing this song, we all danced along and paused, and then we asked ourselves, ‘Which way should I go, which way should I go? (Waa-yee-seekee aakx kuu.)’ ” As Ron explains, this song reminds us that the way we react to everything in life is a choice. In every waking moment of our lives, we should be aware that we have chosen whatever we are doing or thinking. That is why we sing and dance and then pause, to ask ourselves, “Which way should I go?” We can stay in bed or we can get up. We can listen or not listen. We can be angry or not angry. Everything is a choice.
Titles by the Author
with Sylvia Olsen
Illustrated by Kasia Charko
Following on the heels of the much-lauded Yetsa’s Sweater, versatile author Sylvia Olsen again brings her storytelling gifts to picture book readers. Which Way Should I Go? is a moving story, based on the memories and the direction of Olsen’s friend Ron Martin, that handles a tender subject with a light and deft touch.
All families, and especially those who have lost a loved one, will enjoy storytime with this beautiful, touching book.