Haida paddlers prepare for ocean journey

  • Jul. 14, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Preparations are underway for Haida paddlers to participate in the annual Tribal Journey, a trip that will see 100 canoes from First Nations in BC and Washington State converge on Vancouver Island in time for the North American Indigenous Games. Andy Wilson of Skidegate has been pulling together a team of 12 paddlers to make the trip, and they are set to leave Haida Gwaii on July 23. But before getting their paddles wet, participants will fly to Vancouver to pick up their vessel.Mr. Wilson said the original plan was to take the Loo Taa, Bill Reid’s 50-foot cedar canoe, to the event.”But it doesn’t look like that will happen,” he said. Luckily, fiberglass copies of the canoe were made. One called Loo Plex lives at the Haida Heritage Centre, but the other, known as The Black Eagle Canoe, has recently come into the possession of the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art in Vancouver. Mr. Wilson said the director of the museum, George MacDonald, offered his paddlers the chance to borrow the boat, and he is now taking him up on it. Logistics have been a challenge, but this year’s Tribal Journey is expected to be the largest ever with 50 boats from the US and 50 from Canada participating, so Mr. Wilson is keen to ensure it all comes together. Besides paddlers, Mr. Wilson needs a support team, including some people who can take vans and gear to the end destination, as well as a safety boat to accompany the canoe through the high traffic waters. He’s also waiting to hear back from West Coast Resorts about whether they will sponsor the group to head to Vancouver by plane. Once in Vancouver, the route Mr. Wilson intends to take is first to Sechelt, then crossing the Georgia Strait there and meeting up with other Tribal Journey groups who’ve come from places up coast. Eventually all the paddlers will all meet outside of Duncan where they will then form a flotilla and arrive at the Games en masse. He expects three days will be reserved for protocol – where all the paddlers will introduce themselves and state their tribal affiliation.

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