Starting this week, Tla’amin Nation hosts the Pulling Together Canoe Journey, an event that brings together First Nations communities, police, and provincial and federal government agencies to complete a 10-day canoe expedition. The event is aimed at promoting reconciliation and respect for Indigenous people and will see more than 25 canoes and upwards of 300 people taking part.
“It’s really exciting and really busy,” said Tla’amin cultural activities and information coordinator Drew Blaney. “There’s a lot on the go. Right now we have 26 canoes registered.”
The annual expeditions began almost two decades ago when now-retired RCMP staff sergeant Ed Hill helped organize the VisionQuest Journey in 1997, a trip that had First Nations people and RCMP officers travel B.C.’s coastline visiting Indigenous communities along the way. The experience inspired Hill, a Gibsons resident, to start Pulling Together in 2001.
This will be the third time Tla’amin has hosted the event, Blaney said.
“Pulling Together is meant to bring First Nations youth and government agencies together to build our relationship,” he added.
Each canoe family includes a minimum of eight pullers and a skip and carries members of different regions' Indigenous communities along with that area’s public service agencies. Most of the vessels used for the expedition are modern versions of traditional Aboriginal canoe designs.
This year’s journey will start at Saltery Bay Park and make its way into Palm Beach. From Palm Beach the canoes will travel to Willingdon Beach by July 7.
“That’s going to be a big day for people to come down and witness,” Blaney said. “Our chief, our elders, our MP and MLA and RCMP staff sergeant will be there. We’re hoping that people can make their way down there for four o’ clock on July 7 for a big welcome at Willingdon Beach.”
The following days the canoes will travel to the Tla’amin waterfront, Lund, and up to the Copeland Islands, finishing up back in Tla’amin on the last day.
Immediately after this event, canoe families from Tla’amin will be taking part in Tribal Journeys, a canoe trip that brings together Indigenous people from Alaska, B.C. and Washington State. This year the event is hosted by the Lummi Nation in Washington State.