NANAIMO — Hundreds of weary paddlers arrived in Nanaimo as part of a deeply personal canoe voyage.
Roughly 70 canoes landed on Snuneymuwx First Nation shores Sunday, July 30 as part of the lengthy Tribal Journeys canoe trip to Campbell River. Paddlers were already several days into the odyssey, having started at Port Renfrew.
The annual drug and alcohol free event is designed to reconnect Indigenous teens and young adults with their heritage by visiting other bands and communities along the path to Campbell River.
Charlotte Nelson-King, 18, rides in the Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre's canoe A'kwul'muxw, which means “a gathering of different nations.”
A recent Vancouver Island University graduate, she said chances to fully connect with her culture were few and far between and it weighed on her.
“I know I need my culture, so consistent culture for a few weeks is amazing. It's such a privilege to have.”
After two days in the canoe, paddling for several hours a day, Nelson-King said she was tired but enthusiastic for the rest of the trip.
“You feel alive the entire time. It's really nice to get away and put all your stress into this (journey).”
A'kwul'muxw skip Adam Manson said it's incredible being on the water and immersing themselves in nature, but it's also just as invigorating when on land with all the other paddlers and their families.
“Everyone works together and takes care of each other. Seeing everyone come together from all different nations...seeing the youth taking a lot of pride in their culture, dancing singing and drumming was amazing for me.”
The Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre weren't the only canoes representing Nanaimo. There were also canoes for Vancouver Island University, Kwumut Lelum Child and Family Services and others.
After a night of feasting and celebrating, the canoes will hit the water and carry on up the Vancouver Island coast and are expected to land in Campbell River on Saturday, Aug. 5.
On Twitter: @spencer_sterrit
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