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Indigenous canoe racing will bring fast paddling to Ladysmith waters

All are welcome to watch two days of races Sept. 3-4 at Transfer Beach
The 11-person canoe races are a huge attraction at First Nation canoe race events. When the paddlers get going the canoes can cover a large distance in a very short period of time. (Duck Paterson photo)


Some of the sleekest and fastest open water canoes on the West Coast will be competing off Transfer Beach over the long weekend. Ladysmith’s neighbouring community, Stz’uminus First Nation, is hosting Indigenous canoe races on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 3-4.

“We are expecting a lot of visitors from both Canada and quite a few from the U.S.,” said Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris. “Canoe races are very popular and a very significant part of our culture.”

There will be canoe clubs participating from Nooksack and Lummi, both from Washington State. The Stó:lo Nations from Chilliwack are also planning on attending, as are clubs from Saanich, Snaw-Naw-As, Snuneymuxw and also local canoes from Stz’uminus.

There are various categories of races and ages starting from seven and under all the way to adult participants. Saturday, Sept. 3, will feature singles races and doubles and then the six-person canoes and finally the 11-person open water canoes.

“The 11-man canoes are very, very fast,” the chief said. “It’s exciting racing.”

There is a captain’s meeting at 9:30 a.m. along with a welcoming by Chief Harris and prayer by a community elder. The races start shortly after that.

On Sunday, Sept. 4, the races begin at 10 a.m. and this time the order is reversed and the 11-person canoes run off first followed by the sixes then the doubles and then singles. Both Saturday and Sunday are full days of racing.

Chief Harris said Stz’uminus has been hosting the races for many years, both at Kulleet Bay as well as Shell Beach, but when COVID-19 hit, events were postponed.

“We are happy to be back on the water and very pleased to be hosting the races from Transfer Beach, part of our traditional territory,” she said. “It gives folks more of an opportunity to come out and watch the races.”

Hungry Bubba’s food truck, an Indigenous-owned and operated concession, will be on site serving tacos. The Stz’uminus Young Wolves drum and dance group, young people who are learning some of the cultural practices of the community, are scheduled to perform at 9:45 a.m. on Saturday.

The races and events on both Saturday and Sunday are open to the public and Chief Harris stated that everyone is welcome.

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