As people continue celebrating Canada’s 150th year since Confederation, members of the St. John River Wolastoq Brigade have jumped in their canoes to make their way along the St. John River to celebrate the river and communities along it.
They arrived in Fredericton on Tuesday, about halfway into their journey, and were greeted with drumming and a smudging ceremony to begin their time in the provincial capital.
On Sunday, the brigade started its trek down the river paddling from Florenceville to Woodstock, then continued to Nackawic on Monday. As of their arrival in Fredericton, the paddlers had already covered approximately 117 kilometres.
The brigade was welcomed ashore by Lt.-Gov. Jocelyne Roy-Vienneau, who had previously agreed to be the honorary patron for the brigade. In addition, Roy-Vienneau also invited members to use the grounds of Government House as their camp for their stop.
Mike Murphy, one of the paddlers with the brigade, said the journey is part of numerous brigades across Canada in heritage rivers across the country, starting in British Columbia and Alberta.
“It’s really important for Canadians to look at their rivers and understand the importance of their rivers both for the fresh water, the life it gives to the land around it and the possibilities both for transport, water and for exploration and for use as recreation,” Murphy said.
He said it was important to have a brigade in the Maritimes and “there was no better river to have it on” than the St. John River.
WATCH: The St. John River Brigade was welcome into Fredericton by the Lieutenant Governor, local political figures and a big public crowd. The group is taking part in a paddle down the river honouring the province’s most iconic waterways. Jeremy Keefe has the story.
Crews were made up of members from across Canada and even outside of the country.
Mac MacDonald of Seattle said he came along because of his ancestry.
“My ancestry is Scot, Irish, French, French-Canadian and Metis, so I said, ‘I’m supposed to be on this trip,'” so I came all the way out from Seattle to do it and what a cultural education and what a joy to touch base with my bloodlines.
“The honouring of the canoe and how it factored so big in Canadian history, trade war, you name it, it was just phenomenal.”
Paddlers in the brigades across the country, under the Voyageur Brigade Society, are making their treks to celebrate not only Canada 150 but the canoe as a Canadian symbol, the country’s water stewardship and its history of cultural co-operation.
Matt DeCourcey, MP for Fredericton, said the project is one of 35 activities taking place along Heritage Rivers across the country under the leadership of the St. John River Society and Heritage Canada through the Canada 150 fund.
“This beautiful river that we have the pleasure to live along in Fredericton … it is on traditional Wolastoq territory,” DeCourcey said. “It is the lifeblood of the indigenous community. It is a source of great leisure and recreational activity for the residents of Fredericton.”
Roy-Vienneau added the brigades are a “beautiful way” to celebrate Canada 150.
“Everybody knows that the canoe was very important 150 years ago, so for us it’s very important to have them here and to celebrate. It’s a beautiful way to celebrate our anniversary,” she said.
The brigade will stay in Fredericton Tuesday night and continue on to Gagetown Wednesday. They will finish their journey in Saint John by paddling through the Reversing Falls to the Saint John City Centre on Saturday.
—With files from Jeremy Keefe, Global News