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Community pulls together to make Delta School District Journey Canoe a reality

On May 26 Indigenous Cultural Mentor Nathan Wilson and Indigenous Education Curriculum Coordinator Cody Forbes took delivery of a 39-foot fibreglass Journey Canoe.

Acquiring a Journey Canoe to help bring Indigenous culture and history to all learners in the Delta School District has long been a dream of members of Delta’s Indigenous Education Department. Just a few weeks ago that dream turned into reality.

On May 26 Indigenous Cultural Mentor Nathan Wilson and Indigenous Education Curriculum Coordinator Cody Forbes took delivery of a 39-foot fibreglass Journey Canoe.

For Wilson, the moment was particularly poignant.

“Twenty-one years ago, I took part in the the Pulling Together Canoe Society Program which aims to enhance and improve relationships between Indigenous youth and public service agencies such as the RCMP,” recalled Wilson. “By putting everyone together in canoes for a long period of time, they have the opportunity to talk, get to know each other, have fun and build relationships while learning more about our country’s Indigenous culture and history. The program breaks down barriers by enabling people who might not usually be comfortable interacting with each other to sit side-by-side and work together to achieve a goal.

“The canoe is such a great analogy for life – we all need to pull our own weight and we won’t get anywhere if we don’t pull together. The program reconnected me to my culture, and ignited my passion for sharing my culture, history and learnings with others. I believe it was instrumental in leading me to my current role of Indigenous Cultural Mentor in the Delta School District. I am so excited that we have our own Journey Canoe and can’t wait to see the positive impact it will have on all learners in Delta.”

The Indigenous Education department is developing a mentorship program, Paddling Together, for students in grades 5 to 12. The program will inspire positive identity of urban Indigenous students, help develop leaders, and bridge relationships throughout the community.

“We will ensure that the cultural significance of the canoe is understood by all who paddle together in it,” added Diane Jubinville, district vice-principal Indigenous Education. “The Paddling Together program will support the Truth and Reconciliation Call to Action number 63 by building student capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy and mutual respect.”

Delta students and staff will have access to the canoe, which has room for 18 passengers, by way of day trips throughout the paddling season. The Paddling Together program will culminate with a Pulling Together Canoe Journey each summer.

“We owe huge thanks to Fortis BC, the Rotary Club of Tsawwassen and the Indigenous Sport Physical Activity and Recreation Council (ISPARC) for their generous grants and also to school district staff and community that took part in last fall’s Orange Shirt Day fundraiser,” said Forbes. “It’s thanks to this wonderful community effort that we were able to realize our dream of getting a canoe. Currently, we are working with Delta students and artists from Tsawwassen and Musqueam First Nations to develop a name and artwork for the canoe.”

All funders of the canoe will be invited to the celebratory launch of the canoe in September, closer to the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. For the ceremony, the canoe will be brushed off with cedar and “woken up” with Indigenous traditions, before being set into the water for its inaugural journey from Wellington Point Park in Ladner to Deas Island Regional Park.