Monday, February 7, 2011


  I wrote this essay in 2005, and I introduced it to a group of people from all the communities on the Sechelt Peninsula.  It was well received because people need something to hope for and to believe in.  With all the "things" that have happened to this family, we still retain the dream. And six years later, we are ready to take up the torch the Creator has placed in our hands, and if you will walk beside us, we will do our very best to build a canoe family the Sunshine Coast will be proud of.
I'm beginning to think that I have an obsession with canoes.  I can't seem to get them out of my mind.  I even wake up in the middles of the night and think about canoes.  Strange.  Why canoes?  Why not cars? or airplanes?
     The answer is quite simple.  Canoes have always been the backbone of the life-style of the Sechelt People.  We are the people of The Big Water and we live by The Salish Sea.
     The Ancient Ones came to look upon canoes as healers, not that they could heal a physical illness or disease, but they have a way of helping us deal with whatever is bothering us.
     The moment One steps into a canoe our life begins to change for the better. 
You experience a sense of rejuvenation and spiritual healing that sparks to life almost immediately. 
If you reflect upon it - it's very much like one of those sparklers that kids are so fond of lighting up on Halloween night. 
You can feel the glow and warmth as it floods your entire being. 
 It feels like a spiritual experience because it is.  
The wind, the air, the sun, or rain, all join in to begin healing your very soul. 
 It begins on the epidermis or skin level of your body. 
You can actually feel the calming, healing balm when it makes contact with your skin.
 Just like a match that is dropped into a field of tiner-dry grass, you will feel it sweep over your body. 
It will penetrate each layer of your being until it reaches the very marrow of your bones. 
 An inner stillness, a quiet contentment begins to take hold of you, and you are at peace with the sea and with yourself. 
You take in a couple of big draughts of air and you can feel LIFE traveling through your stystem. 
 You feel stronger.  You are stronger.  You begin to feel whole again.  You begin to look forward to a challenge.
     You take up a paddle in your hand, and it is just an extension of your arm; it feels so natural. 
You dip the blade into the sea and the water speaks to your soul. 
Can you hear what it is saying? 
Do you think it's an accident that some churches have what they call holy water
They took the idea from Aboriginal People who knew and understood the true meaning of Holy Water. 
Dip your hand into the sea and it will immediately sense the make-up of your DNA and it will bond with you. 
You just need to be open to receive this great gift.  It can be a most humbling experience.
 You may want to cry or laugh or act giddy. 
It is different for each individual, but rest assured, it will nudge you towards the correct action for you.

    Canoes were important because there were no other ways of travelling or sending messages available to us.  There were just our canoes.  We used a canoe for everything.
When  messages needed to be distributed in the olden days,  a canoe and paddlers were dispatched to deliver it; and it didn't matter how far away the message had to travel.  Sometimes it took months for the messengers to deliver the news.  canoes were the backbone of our communities.  They brought us good news and they brought us sad news, but we were always informed of what was happening all over the British Columbia coast.
     The same thing could be said of any group of people that needed to move around the Province in those days of long ago.  It would have been impossible to walk everywhere, given our many mountain ranges, so the government agents, the RCMP, the Hudson Bay Co. and ordinary citizens utilized the Indian canoe as a means of travel.  It made sense to those people who knew next to nothing about surviving in such a inhospitable environment.  The Indian canoe must have been a great blessing to those people.  I wonder if they ever got around to thanking those that introduced them to the canoe?
     So, you see, perhaps my preoccupation with canoes isn't really obsessive, it's just a needful step in the right direction. 
Use your imagination for a moment and consider this:
If our habitat, which is the Sunshine Coast was a single, living entity, it would be struggling to survive because of the way we abuse it with drugs, alcohol and needless violence. 
It would be to the benefit of every person from Egmont to Langdale to be concerned for the health and welfare of this Friendly Giant that we call home.
We NEED to begin HEALING the wounds our Habitat is suffering from. 
We need to make a concerted fight against the abuse of drugs, alcohol and violence. 
We MUST salvage our young people or there will be no tomorrow or future for the human race, as we know it. 
We are going to hell in a hand basket as the saying goes.
 It's time for every single person, regardless of age, color or religion to say,
     I believe that if we all do that, and follow through by helping the clubs and organizations that are already in place to fulfill their mandates of building a better community, it would be a giant step in the right direction. 
We require a lot of people taking small steps to accomplish astronomical deeds. 
There is no telling how much good we could do if we didn't care who got the credit. 
I believe, I believe, I believe.

     Instead of going to doctors and other medical practitioners for ways to save our youth and young people, let's  take up the challenge ourselves. 
Let's heal ourselves while we seeks ways to heal the horrendous disease that is spreading throughout every small community and settlement on the Sunshine Coast. 
We know the disease is called drugs, alcohol, and violence, and we must stand firm and deal with it at the grassroots level. 
This is our home, and we must pluck out the bad things that are trying to grow in our backyards.
Sometimes this can mean that there are two or three generations of addicts or alcoholics in one family. 
This is sad but true, and sometimes they are also the pushers who set out to entangle and snare others so that they can pay for their own habit. 
We have to mean business, the future of our way of life depends upon it. 
It it comes right down to it - there must be a way that we can run these undesirables out of town on a rail.

When I asked the Shishalh Elders to spell and help me pronounce the name of my canoe club, they said, "It sounds like a Family - not just a club."  Of course, I agreed with them, and from that moment onward I have thought of it as a canoe family.
This canoe family will be honourable and have integrity so that it will attract,
  • Children and youth
  • Young adults and adults of all ages
  • Elders and Senior Citizens
  • The handicapped
Now, I believe that takes in the entire population of the Sunshine Coast, doesn't it? 
Can you visualize the healing power of a canoe family that touches and draws upon the whole population of the Coast for support?  It would soon put the Sunshine Coast on the map of the world as a leader at ways of saving our youth and young people.

Why do we need a Canoe Family?
We all know the reasons this Canoe Family is needed. 
Many of us are afraid to state out loud our hopes and desires for the health and welfare of our youth, and the continuation of our species. 
I really believe that circumstances are becoming that serious.  But, instead of mentioning only the negative things that are happening in our backyard, I will attempt a positive solution.

     It's a well known fact that there are fewer paying jobs for kids and young people to apply for these days.  How are they going to acquire experience if they aren't given the opportunity to gain it?  We need to make concrete plans to help them gain meaningful employment that they can be proud of.  It seems that one of the places we can make a difference in is recreation and tourism.   Let's roll up our sleeves, educate our young people and show them how to make a living without leaving their home town or the Sunshine Coast.  (Unless they want to.)  These are the facts as I see them.

1.   Kids and youth don't get enough exercise to keep their mind and body fit.  It's unrealistic to think that we can produce healthy children if we feed them only junk food, fail to give their bodies sufficient exercise, and don't give them the opportunity to see the larger picture.  The Sunshine Coast is a gorgeous place to live, with miles upon miles of coast to explore, inlets to discover and islands to navigate around.  While they are still young, we can open their minds to possibilities.  Let them see that if we all work together there is hope for the future.  Couldn't we use an injection of Hope in our lives and our Society?  I know I can.

2.   Young people need a challenge, something to strive towards.  Goodness knows they don't have any heroes to look up to.  Our politicians, movie moguls and everybody else have lost their way.  They've lost touch with reality.  There are no heroes left, and that is a great pity.  There is no one for them to emulate.  We've got to give them something to believe in, something to strive towards.  We can't produce a hero out of thin air, so we must move in another direction.

3.   We could begin by teaching them about the Coast.  We don't need macho competitions, just friendly competition that will teach them skill, endurance, strength, tolerance, stamina, leadership, staying power, and a reverence for the sea.  Do you think I'm expecting too much?  We have the better part of two worlds in this area.  We have the open sea on the Sechelt waterfront, and the protection of Sechelt Inlet on the other side.  I get really excited when I think about the potential.
First, we must teach them the basics about canoes, navigation, tide movements, winds and currents, the most important aspects of life upon the Salish Sea.  It can't be just work, work, work.  There must be some fun involved to keep them motivated.
Later, they can begin earning certificates that will benefit them; such as small craft navigation, First Aid or Food Safety.  The sort of certificates that will make them more employable for after school jobs, summer jobs, or to bring their own free enterprise into existence.  This will give them a sense of worth, and they could find themselves in demand.  Perhaps this isn't enough, but it is more then they now have.  Perhaps you have a better idea that you would like to share?

4.   People of all ages have certain areas of expertise, and a desire to share their knowledge while strengthening their own bodies.  Some people already possess certificates that will allow us to have professionals aboard our canoes.  I believe that we should be able to hire them at a fair wage, and we will be contributing to the financial welfare of the Sunshine Coast.  Please help me to research this topic more thoroughly as it isn't one of my strong points.
I note that Elders must flex their physical muscles to make themselves stronger.  Their heads are full of knowledge and lore that can be taught to people of all ages.  Elders will begin to feel better about themselves as they regularly exercise their bodies.  IT IS NOT ENOUGH TO LIVE LONGER - IF THE LIFE YOU LIVE IS NOT FULFILLING.  LIVING FOR THE SAKE OF LIFE ALONE IS NOT ENOUGH; WE NEED A CHALLENGE OR LIFE BECOMES MEANINGLESS.

5. The same is true of the Senior Citizens.  I don't know why they aren't called Elders, because that is exactly what many of them are.  They can teach about kitchen gardens, gathering mushrooms, making teas from garden plants, and much more.  There are numerous old timers at the SENIOR CITIZENS' CENTRE who are literally withering on the vine.  They have much to contribute and their knowledge and expertise is being wasted. What a wonderful resource they would be/

6.   I'm certain the people and organizations responsible for the well-being of the handicapped will welcome a Canoe Family that will cater to their needs.  It's an idea.  What do you think?
There are numerous hands-on arts and crafts that can be taught to the handicapped.  Begin listing your suggestions.  We'll probably be surprised at how much these people can learn and teach us in return.  I've probably neglected to think of a number of things; please, make a note of any over-sight I have made.

FIRST   This is the way I visualize my Canoe Family.  It needs a name that reflects its close proximity to the Sechelt Nation, and our desire to be of service to all the people of the Sunshine Coast.

It has to be a name that people can pronounce, and because this is my idea I believe that it should have the name "Grandmother" or "Great Grandmother", or a word that somehow refers to women who are the Life-Givers in its title.

On the nuclear scale, it would engender a feeling of family and belonging that all races, creeds and colors require to feel whole.  After all, in the Creator's eye we are all One.

I have selected this name for my future canoe family.  It will be called S-YEWEN IHEMS SILA CANOE FAMILY, which means, THE SPIRIT OF OUR GRANDMOTHERS CANOE FAMILY, and it is pronounced like this "See-wins-thums-say-la."
I believe that we need this canoe family just as much as we need food, water and oxygen.

SECOND   This Canoe Family must remain free of obligation to all organizations.  Too often we have heard the same old same old . . . You know the one?  This person doesn't qualify because our group is funded with DIA funds, or . . . We've all heard them.  I want to steer clear of that.  in order to do that our Canoe Family should be run like an ordinary business, and make enough money to pay our employees a decent wage with minimum benefits.  We will require a top-notch  Fundraiser, or maybe two fundraisers.  One to work on provincial or federal level while the other can make the Sunshine Coast their priority.  This is going to take lots of thought, but I feel that it can be done.

THIRD   Whom shall we hire to man the canoes?  We will hire only people with good reputations who don't have drinking or drug habits.  There are a number of them who already have the necessary certificates, such as Life Guards, Coaches, Counsellors, Small Boat Safety, First Aid, and others.  The Navigator in each canoe must have a first hand knowledge of the winds and tides of the Sechelt Inlet and the Georgia Strait, and the pullers in the front seat should be in sync with him/her.  We can talk more about this later.  Ed Hill has already forwarded valuable information on this subject, and has offered his and Fred's services when the time comes.
If we do this correctly, we will have a full crew of paying customers on every trip.  All positions will be open to both genders.  Every canoe requires a Navigator.  We should have a young person in training aboard each canoe.  We want to have graduates who will fill the positions as they become available. We will have a set of rules or hoops that they must get through in order to earn the Certificate that will be awarded to worthwhile candidates.  This must be a straightforward, useful position they are working towards, something with merit that will engender pride in their accomplishment and help make them more employable.

   I have a B. Ed Degree from the University of Victoria, so I am qualified.  We should work with the schools so that portions of our Canoe Family's life skills will satisfy the school curriculum to earn graduation credits.  Think about this and see what you come up with.  Possibly something to do with Ecological Studies, Nature Studies, Marine Studies, Cultural Enrichment or Native Awareness.  There are numerous other possibilities.  List any that you think of and submit them to me.


   Fall and winter can be rough on the water, so we should have other worthwhile activities to teach in those time periods.  We should begin seeking out people who have expertise in outdoor sports, physical workouts, swimming lessons, kayak people may want to become involved, Women from the Dragon Boats, Pulling Together, Vision Quest, Tribal Journey, camping, mountaineering, snowboarding, cross country skiing, snow shoeing.  There are so many things we could become involved with.  Make a list of things we can teach that have little or nothing to do with canoes or the sea.  Ruby Lake and Sakinaw Lake are quite large.  Perhaps we could work them into our program in some way?  Just a thought.

  For those who may not want such a strenuous work out, we could teach them how to recognize, pick, dry, process or make juice with the tons of berries that are going to waste on our mountains each year.  Those berries, and many more gifts from Nature could be turned into delicious fruit leather or they could be dried for winter use in muffins and pies.  There are scads of other ideas that I haven't yet thought of, and I wager that you will come up with some dandies.
We could teach them about the shellfish that can be gathered from the beaches.  We could learn to dig clams and cockles and to harvest  mussels.  We could learn to gather and shuck oysters.  We could learn to process them and store them for winter use; we could learn to smoke and dry any or all of these items.  IT IS CALLED SUSTAINABLE LIVING.
Mushroom identification, gathering and processing.
Evergreen buyers buy leaves and  grand fir, noble pine and mountain hemlock boughs during the winter season.
We could teach them about harvesting small animals and birds for pleasure with a camera or for food.
We could teach them to use a compound bow.
We could teach them how to go up the mountains to gather the items required for making inner cedar bark hats, baskets and regalia.  We could teach them how to make all of those items.
We could teach them how to dig cedar roots, how to care for them, how to bundle them, how to make coiled cedar baskets.
We could teach them how to make Christmas decorations from Nature.

   When I originally wrote this essay I still didn't have a canoe. When we returned from the 2008, Pulling Together Journey, where I served as camp Elder, I did what I call PUTTING IT ON THE WIND. 
That simply means that I asked the Creator to move in that regard. 
"I believe in simple solutions.  Creator, If I am to move on the path you have set for me, I will need a canoe before next summer. I believe I'm supposed to have a number of canoes plus support vessels. I've never done this before, but you must believe that I'm capable or you wouldn't lay this burden upon my heart.  I  leave it in your hands."
 We were at the campgrounds in Gibsons when I first did this.  I didn't tell anyone what I  had done because I wanted the Creator to be able to move freely without me trying to influence Him in any way.

 In September of 2008, I received my first canoe as a gift of love from the Rusty & Diane Ashworth Family. It was barely 3 months since Putting it On the Wind.  In fact, I have since learned they ordered the manufacture of the Northern Dancer Canoe just two short weeks after I'd placed my request On The Wind. That's good enough for me, I believe that I'm doing what the Creator expects of me - so the rest will come to pass as it should.  I also believe that the people I need to get this colossal undertaking under way will make themselves known to me in the near future.
Health problems inundated me, but I believe I have them on the mend now.  I am, again, ready to apply myself to setting up  this Canoe Family.
Just as I already mentioned, I called my club THE S-YEWENS IHEM SILA CANOE FAMILY, which means THE SPIRITS OF OUR GRANDMOTHERS CANOE FAMILY. 
This summer we travel to the west coast of Vancouver Island; our first time in the vast waters of the Pacific Ocean.  We have been fortunate over the past two years with a tried and true Skipper (Fred) and an excellent crew of pullers.  My youngest grandson, Robert, is now learning to be a Navigator and our Skip for this summer is Marilyn.  She has many years and much experience of plying a paddle on the oceans of the world.
I do hope that I shall hear from someone who has read my blog someday.  (a wistful desire.) 

1 comment:

  1. You dream well.

    It is true we have forgotten that all we need is available and all we need to accomplish is doe-able by ourselves or along side others. We too easily allow governments, churches, and worse, advertising and corporations to dictate how we live and what we consume.

    The West Coast is a beautiful place and we are very fortunate to be allowed to be here, thank you for pointing that out in your blog. I wish I lived closer to you for I would certainly love to help you with your mission.