PORT HARDY—The Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Nations held a traditional welcome this week for a delegation from Bella Bella.
Members of the Helitsuk paddled into the bay in their 37′ Glwa (canoe) on the first of a month-long series of stops as the crew and support personnel bring an invitation to the 2014 Tribal Journeys to coastal First Nations.
The Tribal Canoe Journeys is an annual cultural event in which participants travel to a host nation using the traditional method of travel, gaining insights into their culture’s traditions and learning teamwork.
The event began in 1989 with the celebratory Paddle to Seattle to mark the recognition of tribal sovereignty there. The Helitsuk invited participants there to join them in Bella Bella for a canoe gathering, Qatuwas ’93.
That event began the annual gatherings, with the protocol being for the host nation to visit each other nation the year prior to to the event, ask permission to come into that nation’s territory and extend a formal invitation to the event.
Last week, the paddlers were formally welcomed by members of the Gwa’sala and ‘Nakwaxda’xw and taken to the hall for a feast.
After bedding down and resting up for the night, the Glwa crew set off on the relatively short pull to Fort Rupert to extend the invitation to the Kwakiutl. Again, the travellers were given a warm welcome and spent the day with the locals, taking in some lahal at the Big House and preparing for the next leg of the journey.
The next day saw a six-hour pull to Alert Bay and the some ‘Namgis hospitality at the big house there.
The crew set off the next morning, bound for a few days of camping before their next stop. The paddlers will continue the month-long journey bound for Washington, and are scheduled to arrive in time for this year’s Paddle to Quinault.
Next year the Heiltsuk will once again host the journey, with more than 100 canoes expected to make the trip to Bella Bella for the Qatuwas “People gathering together” festival, scheduled for June 29- July 5.