“Welcome to our shores,” said Don Ladd, a member of We Wai Kai First Nation, as he stood on the beach at Cape Mudge across the water from downtown Campbell River.
He was greeting a group of 64 paddlers who crossed Discovery Passage in about 32 vessels, including canoes, kayaks, paddle boards and at least one rowboat. It’s an event that’s meant to bring together the Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, and on Saturday it happened for the 12th time.
“If you’re on the water, we’re brothers, we’re sisters, because that’s what this village is all about,” said Ladd. “[We’re] traditionally known for taking care of their guests, and this goes back generations. We’re famous for that.”
A paddle is exchanged between Cape Mudge and Campbell River during the annual event. Each year, the paddle is altered and enhanced by artists and carpenters from the two communities.
It’s been completely transformed over the years. This year it features three dolphins carved by retired RCMP officer Bill McDonald.
“We hold onto it for a year, and it’s a token of respect and honour,” said Ladd.
|A paddle boarder crosses the Discovery Passage on Saturday. About 64 people made the voyage in 32 vessels. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror|
The tradition is meant to foster a spirit of mutual cooperation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
“It’s just something we do to bring the communities together, even if it’s just for one afternoon,” he said. “It’s a positive thing.”
Known as the Discovery Passage Passage, it’s a roughly 6-km round trip that takes about half an hour each way. The event, which isn’t a race, is free to enter.
Geoff Goodship, the event’s founder, stressed the ancient significance of the Discovery Passage crossing.
“People have been paddling back and forth here for 5,000 years,” he said.
|Members of We Wai Kai Nation’s Cape Mudge Band on Quadra Island welcomed paddlers who crossed the strait from Campbell River. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror|
Paddlers from Campbell River are normally greeted by members of We Wai Kai First Nation’s Cape Mudge Band dressed in regalia, singing and dancing. This year’s event was more subdued, because of a death in the Cape Mudge community.
Out of respect for the mourners, Cape Mudge residents refrained from those celebratory customs.