It was the day Nathan Wilson envisioned soon after he was hired by the Delta School District as an Indigenous Cultural Mentor.
Last Friday, Wilson led traditional ceremonies and inaugural trips out on the Fraser River and Deas Slough in the district’s brand new “Wave Warrior”, an ocean-going 39-foot fibreglass Journey Canoe.
It was acquired to help students learn more about the canoe culture and connect them with Indigenous ways of knowing and being. The Journey Canoe was actually delivered back in May before the talents of artists Diamond Point (Musqueam Indian Band) and Victoria Skosswunson Williams (Tsawwassen First Nation) provided the Coast Salish design.
“I have been working with kids my entire life and got to use the Tsawwassen First Nation Canoe. When I started working with the Delta School District, one of the things I kind of brought back from my memory was the canoe and what it has done for me,” said Wilson. “This day and moment in time is about seven years in the making. I’m so happy we have got it and get to use it.
“Growing up in the way I grew up, being away from the culture, it was different. It was during the time when not everybody was happy or proud to be Indigenous. So this is this is why I wanted the canoe. Doing this and being able to have the kids’ pride is what's important.”
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.
The Indigenous Education department has also been 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.
The Journey Canoe’s purchase was made possible through contributions from Fortis B.C., the Rotary Club of Tsawwassen and Indigenous Sport, Physical Activity and Recreation (ISARC).
“This is about bringing the canoe culture to the school district,” added Diane Jubinville, district vice-principal of Indigenous Education. “Students come from all over Canada. They're not necessarily part of the canoe culture, but this is where we learn first, then that makes them begin to be proud of who they are.
“Really, it's about bringing community and family together and helping each other. When we get in the canoe, we leave our stresses behind, and we are out there to enjoy nature, enjoy each other, and to pull each other forward.”