Tribal Journeys returns to Bella Bella

Qatuwas II sees the annual canoe gathering return to Bella Bella.

Alert Bay, the village of Tsaxis and Tsulquate Reserve will all play host to a flotilla of paddlers next week as the annual Tribal Journeys returns to Bella Bella.

In accordance with protocol, the Heiltsuk recently sent out canoes to invite coastal First Nations to Campbell Island for the Qatuwas — “people gathering together” — Festival, scheduled for July 13-19.

Around 100 canoes and 1,000 pullers are expected to make their way up the coast for the festival, visiting Cormorant Island July 6, with Fort Rupert hosting the convoy July 7 before it moves to Port Hardy July 8 for a Gwa’sala-’Nakwadaxw-hosted stopover.

The festival began with the journey of the Glwa, a Heiltsuk canoe paddled from Bella Bella to Vancouver for Expo ‘86. The journey was the first of its kind in that century for Coastal First Nations.

Three years later, the Glwa took part in the Paddle to Seattle, where the Heiltsuk delegation invited attending bands and all other Nations of the northwest coast to a gathering in 1993.

The event has been held annually since, and grown to include participation from other indigenous groups such as the Maori and Aleuts. The destination has changed each year, with different Nations acting as hosts for the festival.

Along the way, pullers are taught traditional ecological knowledge, environmental stewardship, respect for the ocean and its power, and how to work together as a team.

This year, dubbed Qatuwas II, sees the event return to its modern birthplace for first time since 1993 and is expected to draw up to 5,000 visitors to Bella Bella.

For more information on the event visit www.tribaljourneys.ca.