Dean Sam

Dean Sam

Journey fosters positive relations

NANAIMO – First Nations paddlers join with law enforcement and youth on inner island canoe journey.

Twenty canoes and 350 paddlers are poised to launch Pulling Together 2014, a canoe journey to promote positive relationships between First Nations people, law enforcement and other social services.

Tseycum First Nation is hosting this year’s journey, which got its start in 1997 as Vision Quest, which included RCMP staff sergeant Ed Hill, an organizer and participant of the event who understood the importance of the relationship between First Nation peoples and the RCMP. That journey visited West Coast First Nation communities.

The event was revived as Pulling Together in 2001 when paddlers travelled to communities on the Fraser River.

Each year the journey serves as a reaffirmation of West Coast First Nations seafaring culture and history and follows a different course. This year, it will be sent on its way by the Snaw’Naw’As First Nation in Nanoose.

Jennifer Jones, a member of the Tseycum First Nation in North Saanich that is hosting Pulling Together 2014, is co-ordinating this year’s event with Elizabeth Smith and Max Henry Jr. and has been involved with Pulling Together since 2007.

“We wanted to do an inner island journey this year to bring it back to the islands,” Jones said.

Every journey has a theme, which for 2014 is “nete mot, working together with one mind,” and this year focuses on furthering positive relationships between First Nations youth and police, and other service agencies.

“The main reason I do this journey, in my own words, is to help youth foster relationships with the service agencies,” Jones said.

“I want them to know that there’s a bigger world out there and they can potentially go places and that these people aren’t as scary as they’re made out to be. You see the youth in the communities and they’re afraid of the police or they’re afraid of fisheries because they don’t understand that they’re just doing their job – and it can work both ways.”

First Nations youths, Jones said, have taken on a strong, active role in this year’s journey.

The flotilla launches from Nanoose Friday morning (July 4), will stay overnight on Newcastle Island and paddle through Dodd Narrows Saturday on its way to stops in Roberts Memorial Park and Kulleet Bay.

The journey ends on Tseycum First Nation land with a final day of festivities July 10.

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