A dozen traditional indigenous canoes have been pulled ashore on Newcastle Island in Nanaimo. They’re part of the Qatuwas Tribal Journey, travelling on a route that will see them paddle over 100 nautical miles to Bella Bella.
Spokesperson Saul Brown says Qatuwas is a Heiltsuk word that means “people gathering together”, and tonight group will spend the night on Newcastle. The Snuneymuxw First Nation is hosting them for the evening, which will include a traditional salmon BBQ.
Other canoes will be joining the journey along the way. Brown will be helping to launch the Kw’umut Lelum canoe just north of Campbell River next week. He says the journey is not only physically demanding; it’s also mentally challenging.
Brown says it’s an experience unique to the Pacific Northwest. He says the canoes are ocean-going so they’re made for paddling on the sea. Some are cedar strip canoes, built on the shoulders of their ancestral canoes.