Paddlers pull together

this is the first time the Pulling Together Journey has taken place in the Interior

Donald (r) from Pulling Together organizing committee

Donald (r) from Pulling Together organizing committee

By Cavelle Layes

Kamloops This Week

The drums could be heard distances away as more than 20 canoes appeared in the horizon.

Each manned with about 16 people, the waters were quickly filled with painted canoes as hoots and hollers of laughter and cheer rang out.

While it has happened annually since 2001, this is the first time the Pulling Together Journey has taken place in the Interior.

The event was created to help bridge the gap between First Nations youth and local police, event organizer Tina Donald said.

Const. Rob Claypool, First Nations liaison for the Chase RCMP, said various police departments are involved in the event.

Police boats have escorted the paddlers and Vancouver police volunteers to cooked a meal for the participants and road crew.

People from all ages to take the nine-day journey, which sees them paddling by day and camping by night.

“Everyone learns a lot,” said Ernie Phillips, an elder on the journey.

“The canoe is part of our ways. It is part of our past; it is not new to us.”

Phillips said the journey would not have been the same had it taken place by foot or any other transportation method, explaining that traveling by canoe requires people to communicate with one another.

As the groups came to shore, each member of the canoe family got to work with their designated jobs.

This is what the event is about, said Donald.

“It teaches youth respect. They learn to respect one another, themselves, their elders and their canoes. It is about creating relationships with different levels and areas of government and RCMP.”

Donald was originally unsure how the journey would be received in the Interior, noting not only was the location of the event changed from the Lower Mainland to the Shuswap, the date also changed.

The journey normally takes place at the beginning of July, but was changed to coincide with the beginning of the Kamloops Powwow, which ran from Aug. 2 to Aug. 5.

Despite the many changes, Donald said the response has been supportive and encouraging from both participants and the communities they have visited.

“Each day we go along it gets bigger,” she said, noting they went from just over 10 families signed up in the beginning up to 22 midway through the journey.

Donald said she believes the communities have been enjoying the event, as well, describing onlookers lining the shores waving as they pass by.

“As we go, each destination has had a bigger crowd greeting us,” she said.

The first couple of days were a little rough, Donald explained, “but, after that, people got into rhythm with one another.”

Donald said she is unsure where the event will be held next year.

She said there is a paddle which acts as a trophy in a sense and is passed on each year to the area which will be hosting the next event.

If no one steps forward to claim the paddle  by the end of the journey, it will remain in Kamloops until someone does, she said.

“They would need to come to Kamloops to receive the paddle in person,” Donald said.