Several canoes taking part in Tribal Journey’s paddle to Lummi landed at Shell Beach in Stz’uminus to rest for the day and take part in a cultural exchange.
Paddlers came from various nations, including the Heiltsuk, Namgis, Hesquiaht, and even Alberta Cree. The final destination is Lummi, an indigenous reservation near Bellingham, Wash.
Ray and Roxanne Harris were at Shell Beach to welcome the paddlers to Stz’uminus territory. Ray is a respected Stz’uminus elder and Roxanne sits on Stz’uminus council. Each canoe asked permission to land on Shell Beach and spend the night at the Stz’uminus Community Centre.
“It’s really heart-warming to see this way of life, and people carrying on in a good way with good heart and mind,” Roxanne Harris said. “They’re showing our children a positive way to do something that’s drug-and-alcohol free, and uplifting to our people.”
Tribal Journey offers nations a glimpse of their past. Prior to colonization, the ocean and the Salish Sea acted as the highway for nations to travel along the west coast from Alaska to California. Ray Harris recalled travelling by canoe in his youth, but said there was nothing like Tribal Journeys when he was young.
“We did travel to visit, but only on family-to-family basis, not a journey effort like this,” he said. “We’ve had people show up with 19 canoes, 20 canoes all of a sudden. But it’s different efforts. Right now it’s a cultural coming together of people, family, friends, good feelings. Some canoe journeys are for drug-and-alcohol free issues, suicide issues… there’s been many efforts, but this one here is the one we appreciate the most.”
The groups spend the night at the Stz’uminus Community Centre for a feast. Protocol allows each tribe to share songs and dance that they have prepared. In the morning they sail for Cowichan before continuing on their journey to Lummi.