Pulling paddles through the waters of several Secwépemc lakes made up the 2022 Pulling Together Canoe Journey.
This year, following pandemic restrictions, 21 canoe families as they were called, were in the region from July 10 to 21. Visitors were hosted by Splatsin, Adams Lake (Cstélnec) and Simpcw (North Thompson) First Nations.
After being hosted by Splatsin, paddlers travelled from Sicamous to Pierre’s Point on July 14, where they were met with a welcome ceremony to Switsemalph reserve #6, followed by dinner, cultural sharing and entertainment.
Canoes were moved to Blind Bay and, on July 15, paddlers travelled from Blind Bay to Adams Lake. There they were welcomed to Sahhaltkum reserve #4 in Chase.
Once again the ceremony was followed by dinner, cultural celebrations and entertainment, this time at the Adams Lake Recreation Centre.
In keeping with traditions of generosity, each of the two nights every canoe family was presented with a gift from the Adams Lake (Cstélnec) people.
“To me, I feel it was a great project that started in ‘97,” said acting Adams Lake Kukpi7 (Chief) and councillor Cory Sampson on July 15, filling in for Kukpi7 Lynn Kenoras-Duck Chief who was away. “Originally started for reconciliation between the First Nations people, DFO and RCMP is why it originally started and just took off from there.
“For them to come here is awesome. Most of our people were inspired by that. That’s why we try to join in any time we can.”
When Adams Lake began participating in 2014, Sampson estimates more than 40 canoes travelled to the Coast via lakes.
Sampson joined the Cstélnec canoe family this year, a first for him.
“Youth asked me to paddle, so I’m like, yeah, I’ll come paddle. I missed the first day as I was stuck in meetings.”
“It is pretty cool,” he said, describing the number of people visiting. “We haven’t had this many people in our community in a good three, four years.”
Participating were eight police canoes mostly from the Lower Mainland, 11 First Nations canoes as well as navy and fisheries’ canoes.
About 500 canoe paddlers, ground crews and community members from all over B.C. participated.
The journey’s mission statement refers to enhancing understanding “between public service agencies and aboriginal people by canoeing the traditional highway, strengthening our future relations.”
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