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Delta School District holds traditional ceremony for launch of new journey canoe

39-foot ‘Wave Warrior’ to be used in leadership program for students with Indigenous ancestry

The Delta School District unveiled its new journey canoe with a traditional Indigenous ceremony in Ladner last week.

During the ceremony at Wellington Point Park Friday morning (Sept. 23), the new 39-foot ocean-going fibreglass journey canoe was “woken up” as its name — Wave Warrior — and design co-created by Diamond Point from Musqueam Indian Band and Victoria Skosswunson Williams from Tsawwassen First Nation were unveiled to attendees, before the craft was brushed off with cedar and fresh spring water.

Following the ceremony, the 18-passenger canoe was placed in the water for the first time and embarked upon a mini-journey to Deas Island Regional Park. Paddlers (known as pullers) for the journey included local dignitaries, financial supporters and Delta School District staff. The journey was broken down into three legs to allow as many students, community partners and district staff as possible to participate in the canoe’s inaugural voyage.

At Deas Island Regional Park, the canoe was welcomed ashore by a member of Tsawwassen First Nation, ahead of formal speeches by school board chair Val Windsor, district vice-principal of Indigenous education Diane Jubinville and district Indigenous cultural mentor Nathan Wilson.

“The journey canoe provides a wonderful opportunity to make connections and foster leadership skills for youth with Indigenous ancestry and for staff and students across the district,” Windsor said in a press release.

“As a school district, we are committed to supporting the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action. Building student capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy and mutual respect is the Truth and Reconciliation Call to Action #63. Our hope is that the journey canoe will bring Indigenous and non-Indigenous people together on the journey of reconciliation. The more ways we can find that support healing and reconciliation with our local Indigenous communities, the better,” Windsor said.

SEE ALSO: Tsawwassen walk, blanket exercises in Delta to mark National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

The district’s Indigenous education department is developing a leadership program involving Wave Warrior for students with Indigenous ancestry. According to a press release, the program is intended to “inspire positive identity of urban Indigenous students, help develop leaders and bridge relationships throughout the community,” culminating in a “Pulling Together Canoe Journey” each summer.

“The dream of acquiring a journey canoe for the district was inspired by a program I participated in 21 years ago,” Wilson said in a press release. “The Pulling Together Canoe Society Program aims to enhance and improve relationships between Indigenous youth and public service agencies such as the police. By putting everyone together in canoes for a long period of time, they have the opportunity to talk, get to know each other, have fun and build relationships while learning more about our country’s Indigenous culture and history.

“Also, the canoe provides such a valuable analogy for life — we all need to pull our own weight and we won’t get anywhere if we don’t pull together. I am thrilled that Delta students will be able to benefit from experiencing the canoe culture and storied past in the same way that I did all those years ago.”

In addition to the Pulling Together program, students and staff from across the district will have access to Wave Warrior for day trips throughout the canoe season.

“We are excited about the valuable learning experiences and legacy the canoe will provide to students and believe that it will help support them in becoming leaders for their own personal growth,” Jubinville said in a press release.

“I’d like to extend our heartfelt thanks to Fortis BC, the Rotary Club of Tsawwassen and the Indigenous Sport and Physical Recreation Council (ISPARC) for their generous grants, and to the many staff and community fundraisers that took part in last year’s Orange Shirt Day fundraiser. It’s thanks to all of them that we are celebrating the journey canoe today.”

SEE ALSO: Half of Delta School District staff surveyed report racism in the workplace

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James Smith

About the Author: James Smith

James Smith is the founding editor of the North Delta Reporter.
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