It was hot, man, it was hot, but it was also a perfect day on Tuesday for more than 400 people in 25 canoes to set off from Enderby River Beach and begin an eight-day paddle to Green Lake.
The trip is called United, an opportunity for indigenous peoples and public agents who have historically oppressed their rights to their own language and culture (police, armed forces, child welfare officials) to pursue a shared goal and get to know each other during a trip by canoe on the Shuswap.
“I was super excited to get out on the water with people from all over the province,” said Kyle Crump, youth recreation manager with Splatsin in Enderby, speaking from Mara Lake, the first stop on the eight-day trip.
“For me, it is moving to see like-minded people come together to improve indigenous communities and their relationships with public services,” Crump said.
“That is ultimately, in my experience, a group of like-minded people who want to see change and are working together to bring it about on the ground and going into communities and giving the care and respect that indigenous culture deserves, eager to learn, eager to understand.”
The first Pulling Together took place in 2001so due to a two-year absence due to COVID, this year marks their 20th anniversary, which will be observed with a small ceremony at the end of this year’s journey and celebrated on a much larger scale this fall.
This year, Pulling Together returns to Shuswap, after previous trips from Songhees, near Victoria, to Musqueam and Stanley Park; Tofino to Port Alberni; Currie to the Fraser River; Gulf Islands to Victoria; the north end of Okanagan Lake to Okanagan Falls; I hope Gibsons…
This 20th trip is organized by Splatsin (Enderby), Cstélnec (Adams Lake), Simpcw (North Thompson) and Tsq’escenemc (Canim Lake) First Nations, in cooperation with Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc (Kamloops), and promotes healing , reconciliation and respect for indigenous host nations, as well as the exchange of indigenous cultures.
It will make stops at Grindrod Park, Pierre’s Point and Blind Bay before finishing at Green Lake, a traditional summer gathering place for the Secwépemc, on July 20.
The annual canoe trip was inspired by the Vision Quest Journey, a 1997 trip of RCMP officers and First Nations members who worked together to visit BC’s coastal communities by canoe, after then-Staff Sgt. RCMP, Ed Hill, understood the importance of the canoe to many of the First Nations. cultures of nations.
After Vision Quest Journey, Hill began planning the first Pulling Together, which launched in 2001 down the Fraser River.
Their mission statement is to lead the way in eliminating prejudice and stereotypes while emphasizing fun, unity, respect, cultural diversity, and empathy.
It says: “Acknowledging the past by coming together to improve understanding between public service agencies and Aboriginal peoples canoeing down the traditional road, strengthening our future relationships.”
“After being out of the water for so long, with COVID and all, it felt like a relief almost after being cooped up for so long, not being able to gather,” said Stanley Daniels, a city councilman-elect. Band of the Canim Lakes (or Tsq’escenemc, meaning The People of Broken Rock in Secwepemcstin, the language of the Shuswap Nation).
“This is something everyone looks forward to every year, it feels so good to be a part of it all again.”
But it’s not just a feel-good party, not with the unmarked graves still being discovered at Canada’s residential school sites. It could be awkward, to say the least, for agency officials who snatched children from their mothers’ arms and tried to cleanse a people of their ethnicity and culture, rowing around with the victims of those actions.
It is something that is discussed within the indigenous communities and institutions represented in Pulling Together, Daniels said.
“Every day, as indigenous peoples, we are told that we cannot be this, that we cannot be that, you have to fit into the Indigenous Law, confront racist ideas of what indigenous peoples should have to be, or even what is be indigenous. means,” he said.
“That is a great challenge, to realize that we have a shared collective responsibility with future generations to break cycles and put aside differences, unite and row together.”
So Pulling Together is also about understanding that people have their own stories, challenges and struggles, and respecting that, Daniels said.
“It’s all of those things, but it’s also about being on the water with your family. After all, good governance begins in the home.”