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Vol. 7 Issue 1

The Tribal Journeys 2004 were another success, with over 40 canoes & 400 participants from all up and down the west coast. Building the pride, strength and con? dence of the youth is the key for a better tomorrow, and taking part in this journey is just one of the ways of doing that.

Preston Guno (Haalda Wees which means the one who holds the stone and the wood together) is from the Nisga’a Nation and a part of the eagle clan from northern BC. He is a youth advocate and was one of the main inspirations for the ten native youth of East Van being part of this journey.

“What I have seen is the youth ? nding their strength, ? nding their abilities to cope in society. They built on the small strengths they had already that they had to utilize on their trip. Even doing little jobs like helping to set up camp, cooking and helping the elders in long house ceremonies. That built their con? dence to do those things and you can transfer those skills into their every day life in the city. I watched them ? nd their voice to speak out against the system that has kicked them around in the past, seen them stand up and say, “Wait a minute, you have to respect who I am as an Aboriginal person, and you can’t talk to me and treat me as you like!” And that’s where that strength came from, it was that journey.

it was that journey. “Every time we landed our canoes in a host community we picked one youth to do the protocol of speaking on behalf of the group. It was to build the capacity to ? nd their voice and to see them all do that was very gratifying. They learned to transfer that strength they found in the preparations like the sweat lodge, cold water bath and hiking when they were standing proud in front of the community and voicing their selves. And we were proud to have them there.”

Marlene, a young mother of two from the Heiltsuk Nation describes her experience: “One thing that my friend said was that when you are paddling it’s like you are suffering because its like you want to stop but you don’t, because when you paddle you pray. And when I was paddling I was praying and I was just praying for my family and friends and every one else but me, and honestly I know that most of my prayers got answered. And he said that when you suffer and when you pray things would all come together. So that made things very clear for me. I get it! I was not out there for me I was out there for everyone else.

“The canoe is sacred and you can not think bad thoughts on the canoe, and when you are paddling you lose all sense of time. The journey taught me patience and even though I had two kids, I had to learn more patience because everything was running on Indian time she laughed. “The canoe journey helped me gather myself and be a better mom.”

Preston Guno explained the signi? cance of the journey. “It’s more than just a canoe, its symbolic. The teachings are that the tree who sacri? ced itself is a warrior. So the warrior is bringing us up and down the coast. And I would say by getting into the canoe, we are agreeing to work together. One mind and one heart to move forward. Because you can get ten people in a canoe and you can go ten different directions, and if you do not know exactly why you are getting into that canoe you are not going to get anywhere! You will go in circles. So you need to move forward and do what you need to understand and respect what it is the canoe represents; and on the west coast the boat represents our vehicle for survival.

“This tribal journey is proof of our Nations reaching out with open arms in the search of unity and we realize it when we are all standing together. We can tap into that strength and move forward. This journey, there was 40 canoes, and 400 Aboriginal people paddling. That says a lot about the unity we can build from. I see this canoe trip as being a part of the overall life long journeys. It’s very important, if people are going into detox and treatment centres, to use this as a part of their wellness plan...The tribal journeys would be an ideal place to tap into that strength and to understand where you come from”

Our Nations are going back in time and using the canoe as the vehicle for building a better tomorrow. In the West Coast we have only had about 130 to 150 years of contact with the white man. So when you think about it, just four generations have passed since we were living the real Indian way and we must continue to look in our culture and languages for guidance and strength.

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