Pulling Together: An eight-day Shuswap canoe journey engaging Indigenous communities, law enforcement and utilities

“For me, it is heartwarming to see like-minded people coming together for the betterment of Indigenous communities and their relationship with public services. — Kyle Crump, Splatsin youth recreation manager in Enderby

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It was hot – boy, it was hot – but also a perfect day on Tuesday for over 400 people in 25 canoes to set out from Enderby River Beach and begin an eight-day paddle to Green Lake.

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The trip is called Pulling Together, a chance for Indigenous peoples and public officials who have historically oppressed their rights to their own language and culture – police, armed forces, child protection officials – to pursue a common goal. and getting to know each other on a canoe trip through the Shuswap.

“I was super excited to get out on the water with people from all over the province,” said Kyle Crump, a youth recreation leader for Splatsin in Enderby, of Mara Lake, the first leg of the eight-day trip. days.

“For me, it’s heartwarming to see like-minded people coming together for the betterment of Indigenous communities and their relationship with public services,” Crump said.

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“It’s ultimately that, in my experience, a group of like-minded people who want to see change and work for it together on the ground and go out into the communities and give the attention and respect that the native culture, want to learn, want to understand.”

The DFO canoe enters Mara Lake Provincial Park on Tuesday on the first day of the Pulling Together canoe trip.  The trip is organized by the Splatsin, Cstélnec (Adams Lake), Simpcw and Tsq'escenemc (Canim Lake) First Nations.
The DFO canoe enters Mara Lake Provincial Park on Tuesday on the first day of the Pulling Together canoe trip. The trip is organized by the Splatsin, Cstélnec (Adams Lake), Simpcw and Tsq’escenemc (Canim Lake) First Nations.

The first Pulling Together was in 2001, so due to the two-year absence due to COVID this year represents its 20th anniversary, which will be observed with a small ceremony at the end of this year’s trip and celebrated on a scale much larger this fall.

This year, Pulling Together returns to the Shuswap, after past trips from Songhees near Victoria to Musqueam and Stanley Park; Tofino to Port Alberni; from Mount Currie to the Fraser River; the Gulf Islands to Victoria; the north end of Okanagan Lake to Okanagan Falls; Let’s hope for Gibsons…

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This 20th trip is organized by the Splatsin (Enderby), Cstélnec (Adams Lake), Simpcw (North Thompson) and Tsq’escenemc (Canim Lake) First Nations, in collaboration with Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc (Kamloops), and promotes healing , reconciliation and respect for Indigenous host nations, and the sharing of Indigenous cultures.

It will stop at Grindrod Park, Pierre’s Point and Blind Bay before ending at Green Lake, a traditional Secwépemc summer gathering place, on July 20.

The annual canoe trip was inspired by the Vision Quest Journey, a 1997 trip of RCMP officers and First Nations people working together to visit coastal communities across C. Nations cultures.

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After Vision Quest Journey, Hill began planning the first Pulling Together, launched in 2001 on the Fraser River.

Its mission statement is to pave the way for the elimination of prejudice and stereotypes while emphasizing fun, unity, respect, cultural diversity and empathy.

It reads: “Acknowledge the past by coming together to improve understanding between public service agencies and Indigenous peoples by canoeing the traditional highway, thereby strengthening our future relationships. »

“After being out of the water for so long, with COVID and everything, it was like a relief almost after being locked up for so long, not being able to come together,” said Stanley Daniels, an elected band councilor. of Canim Lakes (or Tsq ‘escenemc, which means the people of Broken Rock in Secwepemcstin, the language of the Shuswap Nation).

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“It’s something everyone looks forward to every year, it’s so good to be a part of it again.”

But it’s not just a feel-good party, not with unmarked graves still uncovered at Canada’s residential school sites. It could be embarrassing, to say the least, for agency officials who snatched children from their mothers’ arms and attempted to cleanse a people of their ethnicity and culture to travel paddle-to-paddle with the victims of those actions.

It’s something that’s being discussed within the Indigenous communities and institutions represented at Pulling Together, Daniels said.

“Every day as Indigenous people we’re told we can’t be this, we can’t be that, you have to fit in under the Indian Act, deal with racist ideas about what Indigenous should be, or even what being Indigenous means,” he said.

“It’s a great challenge, realizing that we have a shared collective responsibility to future generations to break cycles and put aside differences and come together and paddle 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 that, but it’s also about being in the water with your family. After all, good governance begins at home.

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