It takes courage to break a cycle of negativity – but it can be done.
For evidence, look no further than the 2015 Pulling Together Canoe Journey, which concluded last weekend at the ancestral home of the Semiahmoo First Nation.
The journey – which brings together many groups, including First Nations and the RCMP – continues to be a living symbol of positive co-operation. The metaphor is obvious – but no less powerful. In a broad sense, all humanity is in the same canoe. We all have our strengths and our contribution to make. We can’t allow our squabbles to unseat us – we can either paddle together, or let our differences scuttle us in chilly waters, far from a friendly shore.
In the 1997 Vision Quest that inspired the current journey, people of conscience recognized that there had to be a better way to move forward than replaying the same cycles of interaction that had pitted First Nations and police against each other for decades.
A history of bad laws, repressive ideologies and short-sighted and disrespectful policies had painted both groups into corners from which many thought there could be no escape.
While there could be no question that many wrongs had been perpetrated, those with the vision realized that it was time to move on from the mistakes of the past – to build a future based on mutual respect.
Const. Troy Derrick – a Surrey RCMP member of First Nations heritage who has participated in the Pulling Together Canoe Journey for the last nine years – had an interesting observation at the concluding stage of the eight-day journey.
“Too many people listen with the intent to reply, and not with the intent to understand,” he said.
How truly that sums up all human conflict – whether we’re talking about a difference between people in a close family relationship, or strife between nations. And how much we need to heed such messages, especially in an era that tends to divide us, rather than unite us.
The theme of this year’s Pulling Together Canoe Journey was HealThy Ways. It’s a play on words that recognizes a simple truth – that what is healthy for us is also healing for us.
As Derrick pointed out, each of the participants was on his or her own journey, as well as the group’s journey. But the symbolic significance of a challenge to ‘heal thy ways’ should not be lost on the rest of us.
We’re all on a journey together – and the sooner we realize that, and learn to look beyond limited viewpoints motivated only by segmented self-interest, the better-off we all will be.