Klahoose Tribal Journey
By Johnny Hanuse
Cedar has had many purposes for the First Nation’s people of the Pacific Northwest. It made our clothes, our homes and our canoes – our roads were of the sea. Waves and currents were our savior and our challenge. The tides and stars were our dictator. The strength and buoyancy in the grains of the cedar could be felt as the canoes navigated through the coastal waters. With each stroke the canoe drives forward. In unison the paddles dig into the deep green ocean as the travellers glide smoothly along. This was the way of our people.
The time and effort the canoe masters poured into the construction of canoes required dedication that would last a lifetime. The strong and sophisticated craftsmanship served as the backbone of cultural identity. And because of this the canoe masters were highly regarded in the community, but no matter how highly skilled they were at their craft; a spiritual guide was brought in to assist with the process. It was an art form that garnered respect and compassion. The use and construction of a canoe is to represent unity and team work. It represents strength, health and honour (Bill Reid Centre, 1995). When crafting such a powerful instrument to travel up and down the coasts there were many precautions that needed to be taken. For example, the canoe masters were not allowed to brush their hair because it would make the canoe split at the ends. Canoe masters and their apprentice(s) would remain celibate for the duration of the construction for it would rot or crack the inside of the canoe. Traditionally once the right tree was found canoe masters would make two to three canoes from one tree. The estimated time to make a 25ft canoe was two months. There were a variety of types of canoes that were made in B.C., but as time went on a lot of nations traded with the Nuu-Chah-Nulth for the their West Coast canoes, which averaged from 40-60 ft. The West Coast canoe has a large bow, shaped like a wolf, to tackle the big rolling seas of the open ocean. The Nuu-Chah-Nulth also had a smaller canoe that was 35ft, hosted 8 people, and was crafted specifically for whaling.
Every Wednesday night the Klahoose First Nation hosts a cultural night at the multi-purpose building. This has been an opportune time to plan for the canoe journey, which begins on July 31, 2017. It is also a time for our people to come together, share dinner and share laughter. It gives people a chance to experience each other’s sense of humour and knowledge of the culture. The elder’s help the group translate English words into a Coast Salish song. This is in preparation for the protocol of asking permission to come ashore of whichever community the canoe will be visiting.
The tribal journeys have been instrumental to many nations of B.C. in revitalization of culture and building connections to the land and sea. The Klahoose First Nation has purchased a canoe to join the journey. The dates for the canoe journey are as follows:
July 31, 2017 leave from Squirrel Cove to Tla’Amin
August 1, 2017 leave from Tla’Amin to Qualicum
August 2, 2017 leave from Qualicum to Comox
August 3, 2017 leave from Comox to Miracle Beach
August 4, 2017 Break Day at Miracle Beach
August 5, 2017 from Miracle Beach to Campbell River
The canoe holds 21 people and needs a minimum of 8 people to operate. There are two skippers and the nation is looking for more paddlers. There will be a road crew that will be travelling along the land with supplies and belongings. The Nation is also looking for art submissions from band members to be put onto the sides of the canoe. This is a drug and alcohol free environment.
If you are interested in joining in on the canoe journey please do not hesitate to contact councillor Michelle Robinson:
Phone: 250-935-6536 ext: 239
We see you. We lift you. We honour you. Emote. Keep drifting on and thou shalt never be lost.