A’kwul’muxw Canoe Family hoped for healing and strengthening of culture as they embarked on their Tribal Journeys trip Tuesday.
The annual event sees First Nation members from B.C. and Washington state on a journey in traditional canoes, with this year’s ultimate destination Puyallup, Wash. The team expects to land on there on July 28.
Fran Tait, a residential school survivor, is on her third journey and said the canoe family consists of paddlers from various walks of life, each taking part for different reasons.
“For me, it’s a time to reflect on things I’ve done, to meet new people, rest my soul and everybody else has different reasons, but when we get to Puyallup, when you hear the drums and you see the dancing, it’s just another awakening because a lot of us have not had a chance to live with our peoples, so this is community for us,” said Tait.
Wasaskwun Wuttunee, on his fifth journey, said it is invaluable for learning indigenous culture.
“For me, it’s like an opportunity just to get away from everything,” said Wuttunee. “There’s no drugs, there’s no alcohol or anything like that, so it’s just an opportunity to get away, to be immersed in culture and tradition, to be able to get away from the daily hustle of everyday events and to be able to sing songs, dance, share, eat, laugh and learn about traditional values that are harboured within the community.”
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Charolette Nelson-King is on her fourth journey and relishes the cultural significance.
“It’s an emotional journey,” said Nelson-King. “There’s a lot of healing and especially for urban [aboriginal] people, there’s a lack of culture I find. You get to really immerse yourself in culture and different types of culture as well because it’s people from all over Turtle Island, so it’s really awesome and really worth it.”
Adam Manson, skipper, is leading for the second time and said it is an opportunity to connect with the past.
“I’ve heard a lot of teachings all my life of what it used to be like in my ancestors’ time and following so many of the traditional teachings,” said Manson. “When you’re on Tribal Journeys, and I watch my little nephew walk around and everyone taking care of each other and everyone being safe and following the teachings of being drug and alcohol-free, it’s the closest that it can bring me [to] all the stories that I’ve heard in my elders’ times.”
The journey is 185 kilometres.