This week, members of the Tseshaht Canoe Family will be heading out on a 16-day journey by canoe.
The Power Paddle to Puyallup is the 2018 Tribal Canoe Journey—an annual event that involves canoe families of the Pacific Northwest Coast travelling by canoe to visit other Nations.
This is only the second year that Tseshaht First Nation has had a canoe in a Tribal Journeys event, following 2017’s paddle to We Wai Kai, Wei Wai Kum Nations in Campbell River. Unlike last year’s journey, the paddlers will be crossing over the border into the United States.
“We have our paddlers and our support boat, but we also have a land crew,” explained organizer and Tseshaht councillor Corey Anderson. “We’ve been trying to coordinate the land crew and the paddlers to cross over into the U.S.”
The paddlers will be leaving on Thursday, July 12, just after sunrise, from the Paper Mill Dam. The group will head to the Broken Group Island, where they will welcome canoes from the West Coast of Vancouver Island, and from there they will travel along the coast inwards—all the way to Puyallup, Washington.
“It will be 16 days of paddling, and a week of Protocol,” said Anderson. Protocol is the sharing of songs, dances and gifts on land.
The paddlers have been practicing out on Sproat Lake and the Somass River, but the group has mostly been focussed on a new task: getting this year’s canoe water-ready.
They picked up the used canoe from Shell Beach, near Ladysmith, where it was “in bad shape,” according to Anderson. Volunteers have been stripping the canoe, fibreglassing, replacing seats and fixing a number of holes. They are hoping to have the canoe finished by Tuesday so it will be ready to take out by Thursday.
“It will be close,” Anderson laughed.
The new canoe is larger than the two used for last year’s journey, so it will have more room for paddlers. Volunteers have spent the past few months at the First Nations Wildcrafters shed off the Pacific Rim Highway, watching video tutorials and gaining assistance from Nations in Nanaimo, Victoria and Ahousaht.
“We’ve never repaired a canoe before,” Anderson said. “This is the first time in probably 20 years that [this shed] has been used for repairing a canoe.”
The Tseshaht Canoe Family has a backup canoe, in case the new vessel is not finished in time.
“But we’d really like to use this one,” said Anderson.
Cost is a concern with the long journey to another country. The Tseshaht Canoe Family has been fundraising for the past few months. A GoFundMe account is still set up to raise funds for the trip at www.gofundme.com/tseshahtcanoefamily. As soon as they get back, the group will be fundraising for next year’s journey—which will end in Nanaimo.