Pulling Together for better understanding

Tseycum First Nation hosting this year’s coastal canoe journey to help make connections

Collins Johnny

Members of the Tseycum First Nation in North Saanich are keeping alive the ideals of what was once known as the Vision Quest Journeys — created by aboriginal artist Roy Henry Vickers and a former RCMP officer named Ed Hill.

The local community hosts the 2014 Pulling Together, which begins a multi-day canoe journey from Nanoose Bay back home to Tseycum. Organizer Jennifer Jones says a collection of canoes and paddlers representing local first nations, police agencies and other public service groups will be taking the journey, starting on July 4.

Jones and a few of her canoe team mates gathered at the Pat Bay Trading Post with the PNR to talk about the effort.

Pulling Together, Jones said, helps link first nations with other people and organizations to help dispel myths and overcome stereotypes.

“This is about strengthening relationships between first nations, service agencies and youth,” added team member Vivian Williams (she also paddles with a canoe racing team on the Saanich Peninsula).

“Our team here started back in 2007,” she said. “Pulling Together had contacted us and wanted to use our community as one of the stops on the journey. They also invited us to come along, as one of the hosts. Chief and council here gave us the go-ahead.”

Jones said a team was formed over two to three months — and very few of the paddlers had ever been in a canoe before.

That first trip for the Tseycum team was in a 1,300-pound dugout canoe.

“We really had to know what we were doing,” she said.

Yet, the experience was so rewarding for Jones that she stayed involved with the program until she moved to Toronto for three summers. Having returned to Tseycum, Jones said she saw that the effort had died down and is now restarting the team.

These days, they have a more modern, lighter canoe and have the 15 people needed to paddle it over the nine days of the journey. Jones said youth participation is vital — not only teaching them about traditions on the water and about neighbouring nations, but to give them the skills to work with others and then pass them on to the next generation.

“We want to teach youth,” Jones continued, “that they can have a positive impact from within different agencies.”

On Friday, the Tseycum paddlers and more than 300 people from other communities and organizations, set off from the Snaw-Naw-As (Nanoose Bay ) Nation. They will paddle all day south to the Snuneymuxw (Nanaimo) and Stz’uminus (Chemainus) nations.

From there, the canoe teams visit communities in Crofton, Cowichan Bay, Malahat and back to the Saanich Peninsula. Jones said there will be songs and official protocol at each stop along the way.

The journey also includes a visit to Sidney Spit and Tulista Park in Sidney on July 9 between 1 and 3 p.m. then they visit the Tsawout First Nation before ending Pulling Together at Tseycum on July 10 with canoe races, games and closing ceremonies. Everyone, said Jones, is welcome to share in the fun and connections between communities.

Road Closure for Canoe Journey at Tseycum

When the Pulling Together canoe journey ends its coastal trip at the Tseycum First Nation on July 10, West Saanich Road will be closed to traffic.

• The road closure starts between 9 and 9:30 a.m.

• The road is expected to re-open between 3:30 and 4 p.m.

Only emergency services vehicles and B.C. Transit buses will get through.