Sailors' canoe journey with Indigenous communities gains momentum

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Navy News / July 12, 2019

By Lt Cameron Park

Since 2007, Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Discovery has supported the annual Pulling Together canoe journey by providing safety boats along with planning and logistical support. This year marks the first time that Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) members will crew a canoe during the entire ten day event.

The Pulling Together canoe journey is a coming together of groups representing First Nations communities, indigenous youth groups, government agencies and community groups. The purpose of the journey is to deepen relationships and create cultural understanding and connections.

The involvement of the RCN in the Pulling Together 2019 canoe journey highlights the commitment of the RCN to foster respectful and meaningful relationships with First Nations communities. Participants are exposed to a wide swath of First Nations language and culture by participating in cultural events, traditional teachings and visiting culturally significant locations.

At first, a single rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB) was provided for safety support. With the support from a series of commanding officers, the RCN’s level of involvement has grown.

Chief Petty Officer Second Class (CPO2) Rod Tulett, steersman of the RCN canoe, visited the event four years ago.

“I saw how big the journey was, how many different agencies were involved, how everybody was working together - literally pulling together - and having a great time,” said CPO2 Tulett. “At that point, I decided I wanted to get involved.”

CPO2 Tulett and the members of the RCN Pulling Together canoe family were exposed to the language, teachings, and cultural traditions of the Tla’amin Nation, near Powell River, British Columbia.

Before the new canoe entered the water for the first time, community elders “brushed” the canoe and its crew with cedar branches in a traditional ceremony designed to ensure safe travels. RCN members acknowledged the elders with gifts, and by raising their hands to the elders and community members in a traditional gesture of thanks.

The continued involvement of members from HMCS Discovery and other RCN units in the Pulling Together canoe journey will continue to honour and value the importance of reconciliation in the years to come.