Yesterday was not only summer solstice, but National Aboriginal Day. When I think about celebrating the rich culture and traditions of those who first lived in Canada, I think back to the week Colin and I paddled a canoe with the Nisga tribe as part of the 2009 Tribal Canoe Journey.
The Tribal Canoe Journey is an amazing event that Indigenous people all along the Northwest Coast put on every year. Dozens of canoes, some solid cedar dugout canoes, others modern replicas of traditional canoes, set off from their community and paddle to that year’s gathering point. We paddled from Squamish, BC to Suquamish, WA, having managed to luck into an invitation from a Nisga friend of ours, despite being non-aboriginal.
All day we would paddle, two dozen arms digging paddles into the ocean and pushing us forward. We worked at a team within our boat and with the boats that surrounded us. Each evening, all the boats would gather in a host community and the celebrations of heritage, community and culture would continue. Dancing, feasting, discussing. We felt like we a part of something special, something that should be revered and cherished and held up as an example of what it is to be a community. We were so proud to be a part of it, and wished that indigenous blood ran in our heritage. But even though it doesn’t, celebrating the profound traditions and practices of indigenous people is something that will make us all richer.