We Wai Kai elder Alberta Billy shares her canoe story

Walk Away from Racism about journeying together

The Walk Away from Racism annual event is this Saturday, March 21

We Wai Kai elder Alberta Billy has a cherished story she tells to foster understanding between First Nations and non-native communities.

The tale is a legacy from her mentor Chief Dan George, the well-known First Nations political activist and Hollywood actor.

Billy inherited the story as the pair worked together to address the issue of residential schools more than 30 years ago.

It’s the story of a sacred canoe.

As Billy tells it, in the past to build the perfect canoe, aboriginal people went into the forest to find a massive and flawless cedar.

After giving thanks to the tree, First Nations would fall the cedar and create the vessel they needed to make their journey.

But now there is no one single tree large enough to create the perfect canoe, says Billy.

“Now, we must go into the forest to find two perfect cedar trees,” she says.

“And these two perfect trees would have to come together, so you can’t see the seam. It would have to look like one perfect canoe.”

The story is a metaphor for what needs to happen between native and non-native people for society to move forward today, notes Billy.

“We are from all different walks of life, and we must compromise and come together to work for the goodness of our children and our people.”

The story, though decades old, has meaning for our lives, and we’re just beginning to apply its lessons, says Billy.

The annual Walk Away from Racism is a way people can work and journey together, she adds.

“I think the [Walk] in the Quadra and Campbell River area is a good thing,” she says.

“We have different races of people living in our territory and we need to understand each other to have a good relationship on earth.”

The 2015 Walk Away from Racism this Saturday is focusing on the demolition of St. Michael’s residential school as a significant moment for reconciliation with First Nations in the community of Campbell River.

Hosted by the Immigrant Welcome Centre and City of Campbell River, the Walk Away From Racism starts at 11 a.m. on Saturday at the Campbell River Community Centre.