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Epic canoe voyage arrives at Campbell River Saturday and Cape Mudge tonight

Standing Together – Tribal Journeys 2017, a powerful gathering of approximately 100 canoes and support teams arrives on these shores today and tomorrow.

Standing Together – Tribal Journeys 2017, a powerful gathering of approximately 100 canoes and support teams arrives on these shores today and tomorrow.

The host We Wai Kai and Wei Wai Kum First Nations will welcome the paddlers to the Village of Cape Mudge today and Campbell River tomorrow after the canoes had set off from points all along the coast of B.C., Washington, California and Alaska. A multi-day protocol ceremony involving celebrations, feasts and performances, will continue at the Big House in Campbell River through to Aug. 10.

The City of Campbell River is preparing for eight thousand visitors associated with the epic event that has, for more than 20 years, served as a catalyst for cultural revitalization and experience aimed at supporting youth through the process. Some paddlers have been driving their paddles into the coastal waters for more than five weeks to get here. They stop along the way at various communities – sharing and learning from one another and practicing the important cultural protocols of the host communities.

Tribal Journeys is a voyage of healing and health both individually and collectively and for many, represents a connection to each other, to the land, and to their cultural heritage for which there is simply no other comparison.

Today’s landing at Cape Mudge comes after paddling north from their previous stops at Comox, Qualicum and Nanaimo and others. After their welcome on Quadra Island, they will set off across Discovery Passage tomorrow for the Tyee Spit. There they will be formally welcomed.

The public is invited to witness the arrival of the canoes at Tyee Spit but the City of Campbell River is warning residents that they need to anticipate traffic delays and road closures, while the multi-day protocol ceremony involving celebrations, feasts and performances, continues at the Big House through Aug. 10.

Traffic control will occur on Dogwood Street, between 16th Avenue and Highway 19A, to facilitate the large volume of people making their way to the various venues. Saturday, access to the Spit will limited to Tribal Journeys 2017 vehicles, local resident and business traffic. People wishing to launch boats at the Discovery Harbour marina will be provided access as required.

The Tribal Journeys, although long and sometimes tiring, is life changing, says Nigel Lawrence.

Lawrence, the skipper and secretary for the Suquamish First Nation in Washington, said he has participated in almost every Tribal Journeys since 1989.

“It’s something that I keep coming back for every year. The way I see it, this is our church, this is our temple, this is our holy ground being in the canoe; being in the canoe is our prayer, it’s our culture,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence started his journey in Washington State.

He called the waters the “highway of our ancestors,” adding that they are almost reenacting what their ancestors did when visiting neighbouring First Nation communities.

“This is a nice way of honouring our ancestors; a nice way of teaching our young ones about all of this,” he said.

Leonard Forsman, the Suquamish First Nation chairman, said every year, more and more people are recognizing Tribal Journeys.

“It seems like more people knew what was going on because they asked, ‘Are you with the Tribal Journeys?’ or we say this is Tribal Journeys, and they go, ‘Oh, yeah.’ They’re getting more accustomed to this,” Forsman said.

The paddlers landed at the Qualicum First Nation campground on Tuesday to the applause of spectators and campers. One person from each canoe introduced their canoe family and asked Qualicum First Nation Chief Michael Recalma if they would be allowed to disembark. Relcalma would welcome each canoe family to the Qualicum First Nation land.

Carrie Reid, a volunteer for Tribal Journeys at the Qualicum First Nation, said they are grateful to have all the First Nations people here.

“It’s full of all these people who just love life and they embrace this cultural clean and sober lifestyle. It’s pretty amazing,” Reid said.

The waters coming into Qualicum were smooth on Tuesday, (Aug. 1) , but that wasn’t the case for many paddlers coming into Nanoose First Nation on Monday (July 31) .

As a testament to the hardships of the journey and the physical sacrifice the paddlers make, only a handful of canoes were able to successfully paddle into the Snaw-Naw-As First Nation community due to high winds and rough seas. Two canoes filled up with water and had to be rescued by the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue, the Nanaimo Port Authority and the RCMP.

– With files from Lauren Collins/Parksville Qualicum Beach News