A multi-day canoe journey aimed at fostering reconciliation hit the water in the Shuswap this week.
Hundreds of participants, in more than a dozen canoes, are taking part in the 20th edition of the Pulling Together Canoe Journey.
The anniversary trip has been three years in the making after COVID-19 postponed the paddle in 2020 and 2021.
In its current form, the event brings together paddlers from public service agencies and Indigenous communities.
“This is reconciliation in action,” said Pulling Together Canoe Society president Linda Blake.
“We are not looking at policies and processes and ways to try to do better. We are doing better. We work together, we eat together, we camp together, we pull together and the relationships and the conversations are very real. Out of that comes a better understanding a better dialogue.”
Over the years the event has taken place in many locations around B.C. so this year’s return to Secwepemc territory is special for local participants.
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“A lot of our youth and a lot of our elders haven’t even seen all of this (area). So to see it from a different perspective being on the water, is just phenomenal,” said Tia Arnouse, a youth participant from the Adams Lake Indian Band.
“It is an amazing feeling to have it in our territory.”
On Wednesday, a councillor from Adams Lake Indian Band, one of the host communities, was on hand at Harold Provincial Park on Shuswap Lake to welcome the boats as they arrived for a lunch break.
“I’m very honoured for them to be coming this way,” said Cory Sampson.
“I think it is a great significance for them to explore and learn our place names, learn our legends and learn our culture.”
Roughly 300 paddlers, including many young people, started their journey on Tuesday in Enderby.
After canoeing through Mara Lake, Shuswap Lake and Adams Lake, the group will end their trip next week by paddling three lakes to the north.
“Just check us out as we journey through the Shuswap region over the next five or six days. We would love people to come out and see us as we go by. It’s a beautiful sight,” said Blake.