Celebration of Canada 150, the Canoe, and Indigenous Culture

The Gibsons Paddle Club Sunshine Coast Journey

We’re still hearing inspiring stories of Canada’s 150th birthday. This week, we highlight the Sunshine Coast Canoe Journey, an epic trip planned by the Gibsons Paddle Club. The journey, which took place in June, honoured Canada’s 150th birthday, the canoe, and the First Nation culture of cooperation. And what a sight it was to see every canoe adorned with the Canadian Native Flag!

Kwakwaka’wakw artist Curtis Wilson is the designer of the Canadian Native Flag, and his inspiration was to create a design that represents both his aboriginal heritage and at the same time, his Canadian heritage. The Flag Shop President, Susan Braverman said, “Curtis and I just spoke last week and I learned that people across Canada love this flag as much as I do!” She adds, “This beautiful design promotes unity among all Canadians and I was so excited to hear steps are now in motion to rename the flag as the Canadian Aboriginal Flag.”

On June 13, nine canoes from across BC and Alberta met at the Backeddy Marina in Edgemont. Placing the canoes in the water, the group held their first of many circles. This is a tradition which has been passed down by generations of first nation paddlers. They told stories and heard drumming by Andy Johnson and Terry Aleck.

On day two they paddled in the early morning drizzle through the calm waters of the Skookumchuck, as eagles flew overhead. The tide was with the team, who stopped for lunch on the Inlet. After a very windy afternoon, the team struggled to pull over to their campsite for the night. Sechelt elder Barb Higgins told stories, captivating the paddlers after a long day of paddling.

Still rainy and windy on the third day, plans changed and the team paddled to Poise Island – sacred to the Sechelt Nation – and while there, they heard moving stories of illness and death at the time when they first encountered settlers. Hauling the canoes out of the water, they were welcomed by school children and teachers, who braved the rain to greet them. The team portaged their canoes across town, escorted by an RCMP patrol car. With the heavy downpour, the Sechelt band opened the daycare centre where they were able to take shelter. They spent the evening at the Sechelt Longhouse and were treated to a cultural celebration and feast.

On day four, the weather improved and the paddling crews prepared for a long paddle to Gibsons. Stopping for lunch at Roberts Creek, the grandmothers prepared a lunch and a local ukulele band sang and played while the paddlers rested.

After the long paddle the day before, the fifth day was a day of rest. Out of town visitors experienced the beautiful ocean playground, paddling around Keats Island and the Paisleys. Then they were off to the Jazz Festival and supper at Gibsons Public Market., It was a festive evening of good speeches, great food, and dancing!

On the final day, crews paddled a long 38 km back to Vancouver. The weather was misty and cool and the tides and currents were with them. Finally, through the mist they saw the first buildings of West Vancouver. Wes Nahanee of the Squamish First Nation and the West Vancouver Police greeted the paddlers as the epic journey came to an end.

Congratulations to the organizers and paddling crew on this important journey, paying homage to the people of our great nation, the canoe, and the first nation culture of cooperation.

For more information, please visit Gibsons Paddle Club’s web site.

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