“Jennifer on,” my voice quivered while easing my body onto the largest canoe I’ve ever paddled. The 25-foot traditional style ocean canoe was docked at Cates Park in North Vancouver, B.C. , or as the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation call it, “Whey-ah-wichen” which means “facing the wind.”
Pronounced “slay-wah-tuth,” the Tsleil-Waututh Nation has inhabited the lands and waters surrounding British Columbia’s Burrard Inlet since time has been recorded. I was in good company during my morning paddle on a rainy June day, 10 others who were also attending Travel Blog Exchange in Vancouver participated in the trip led by Takaya Tours.
Art of the Paddle
Before boarding the canoe, I needed to announce my presence to the spiritual entities so they would ensure a safe journey during the two-hour paddle through fjords of Burrard. It was important to hold the paddle a proper way with the ancestral eye facing behind because to look over our backs. The front of the wood paddle contained a crest of a wolf, which indicates a guest of the tour company. Water rolled off the paddle’s pointed tip, which Tsleil-Waututh ancestors used for hunting.
The canoe’s skipper is in charge of the boat and he called out one of three orders, “Forward stroke!” “Back!” and “Brace!” James Healy was our skipper.
Once in the boat, I was afraid of rolling over. Remember, I’m a gal who’s kayaked, zip lined and played roller derby, yet I was afraid of ending up in the inlet. Not because I was afraid of getting wet but I feared losing my camera and iPhone. I forced my body to move in the direction of the rocking canoe and prayed the others did the same. About midway through the excursion my body naturally rocked with the canoe and fear of tipping over faded away.
Intertwined with Nature
Our guide’s Tsleil-Waututh name was “Yuxweluptun’aat” (Laura Leigh Paul, her legal name) and she sat at the front of the canoe facing the group. She recited legends of her ancestors that intertwined nature with man. She also sang aboriginal songs while beating a handheld animal skinned drum, about the size of a tambourine.
Listening to her along with the soothing sound of wood paddles cutting through the water, helped me forget the mechanics of the trip and appreciate the sacredness of the setting. Here we were, floating in a canoe dwarfed by tall mountains. Birds, including great blue herons and cormorants, glided passed. A lone seal made an appearance.
Participating in the Takaya Tours canoe excursion introduced me to another dimension of Vancouver’s eclectic cultural mix. Having learned about the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation culture in a first-hand experience left me feeling more connected and appreciative of the destination.
About Takaya Tours
Takaya Tours is a canoe and kayak outfitter operated by the Tsleil-Waututh Nation. Founded in 1999, the eco-tourism company is one of the first Aboriginal tour operations in British Columbia.
“His’kwe” (I believe that’s Tsleil-Waututh for “thank you”) to Dennis Thomas with Takaya Tours along with our guide Laura Leigh and skipper James for a peaceful, insightful trip.
Tel: (604) 904-7410 or (778) 835-5047
Canoe and walking tours are available for groups and individuals.
Blog posts from other TBEX attendees who paddled with me on this trip:
- Consider the Canoe: Part One
- TBEX 2011 in Vancouver – A Stunning Conference in a Charming City of Contrasts
- Crazy Canucks, Hot Mounties, and the Spirit of Canada
Disclosure: As an attendee of Travel Blog Exchange in Vancouver June 10 – 12, 2011, this trip was complimentary however, these opinions are my own.