POWELL RIVER, B.C. – It’s a journey of reconciliation, understanding, and healing.

The Pulling Together Canoe Journey sets off today and will continue until July 12th in Powell River and Tla’amin Nation.

This year’s journey sees 25 canoes carrying paddlers including First Nations youth, police officers, Navy and Coast guard personnel, and members of the public to different destinations.

Since 2001, First Nations communities have partnered with police and provincial and federal government agencies to hold the event, which typically draws more than 300 people and 20 canoes.

This year’s event, ‘Where the Canoe Takes Us: the Story of Pulling Together,’ is being hosted by the Sechelt First Nation and Tla’amin First Nation.

Drew Blaney, the host nation’s culture and heritage manager, said Pulling Together has many layers.

“This journey was meant to build bridges, really, and create an equal relationship between different government agencies, First Nations youth, (and) First Nations communities and getting people in the same canoe and paddling forward together.”

The journey begins at Saltery Bay Provincial Park and winds its way north along the upper Sunshine Coast.

On Sunday, the canoes land at Willingdon Beach at 4:30pm. They will be welcomed by Tla’amin drummers in full regalia.

On Monday, the canoes will land on Tla’amin shores at 4:00pm.

The journey ends on Friday, July 12th at Gibsons Beach. The evening celebrations are open to the public. The Tla’amin Nation wil share songs, dances and stories. Events take place at 5:30pm at the Salish Centre.

Blaney said everyone is welcome to welcome the paddlers to shore.
“It’s an amazing feeling when you come around the corner and there are hundreds of people standing on the beach waiting for you. I definitely encourage the community to come to participate.”

Blaney noted that it is an emotional journey for many.

“This journey here asks of reconciliation, bringing different people in and coming into First Nations communities, creating those relationships,” he said.

At the same time, he said it’s a lot of fun.

“Our participants are going to have such a great time out there on the water,” Blaney said. “There are always water fights happening in the communities and we’re going to have some canoe races… and a talent show and a scavenger hunt out there on the water. There are a lot of fun things here, for youth to participate in.”