Brandon Gabriel of the Kwantlen First Nation will be participating in the entire 1

Special sendoff for Spirit of the Coast paddlers

Paddlers will travel 1,300 km over next three months to promote unique attributes of B.C. coast.

It was a very emotional afternoon along the Fraser River for six special paddlers who were greeted with drumming, songs and cheers outside Lelem Arts and Cultural Cafe in Fort Langley during the official Spirit of the Coast sendoff on Sunday.

Led by professional wilderness guide Chris Cooper, the Spirit of the Coast crew — made up of paddlers from South Africa, England, Scotland, the United States, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia — will travel by canoe for 90 days along the coastline of British Columbia up to Alaska, to bring awareness to the ecology and culture of the land.

The group started their 1,300 km canoe trek from Fort Langley in picturesque summer weather, with full bellies from a Kwantlen First Nations feast, and full hearts from a morning ceremonial blessing.

Brandon Gabriel, Kwantlen First Nations artist and co-organizer of the event, admits he had no sleep the night prior to the launch. Not only was he up until 3 a.m. painting paddles as gifts to community sponsors, but he was also wide awake with excitement and nerves.

“Paddling in the canoe is my rest,” he said with a laugh, as he disembarked at the Fort Langley Canoe Club dock at the start of the public celebration.

The group had paddled over a short distance from the Kwantlen First Nations reserve, where that morning a private ceremony was held with 200 family and friends in the longhouse to bless the canoe and send well wishes to the paddlers prior to departure.

The morning ceremony was very moving, according to Brenda Fernie, a member of the Kwantlen First Nations Business Group.

“It was beautiful,” she said. “There was actually an eagle that was overtop in the trees looking over as we blessed the canoe — it was very spiritual.”

Another eagle soared above Kwantlen drummers and dancers as they performed outside the Lelem Cafe in the afternoon public ceremony as well.

Though the journey will be a mental and physical challenge for the paddlers, they all feel the importance of their message far exceeds the danger of the trip.

“This is a serious journey,” said Cooper, who has canoed to Alaska five times before. “This journey is very, very much about awareness of our coastline, about education, about culture, about environment.

“I’ve spent a lifetime paddling canoes of all sorts all over the world and I really feel strongly that we need to do something for our coast. It’s the jewel of Canada, there’s no doubt about it. We have a treasure chest here. We need to take care of it, we need to leave it for our grandchildren and great grandchildren and many others.”

In addition to the environment and ecology of the coastline, Gabriel also wants to bring attention to the local communities and First Nations on the coast.

“Our communities are integral to the well being of the precious coastline and despite these big government and big corporate plans for our future along our coast, [there are] voices of opposition, voices of discontent and voices that have an alternative view of these corporate sponsored initiatives that are taking place,” he said.

To follow the journey of the paddlers, visit www.spiritdancercanoejourneys.ca/spiritofthecoast.html.

Donations can be made on crowdfunding site Indeygogo at www.indiegogo.com/projects/spirit-of-the-coast-canoe-journey-fundraiser.

Just Posted

Junior Team Canada brings home gold to the Lower Mainland, again

In a 9-4 victory over Switzerland, a Langley-based curling team earned its 2nd straight world title

Surrey-Langley curlers in the running again for gold

Junior men’s team out of Langley hopes to defend its world title Sunday, going up against Switzerland

VIDEO: Giants earn 40th victory in a 4-0 triumph over Victoria

Vancouver G-Men move within a point of clinching the B.C. division banner at Friday’s at-home game

Developers to unveil plan to transform Aldergrove mall into new town centre

Community to find out new Aldergrove Town Centre plan for dormant 10-acre lot in heart of downtown.

Man sentenced for smuggling drugs and shooting at border guards

Nathan Hall was arrested in Abbotsford in 2013 after day-long manhunt

VIDEO: Iconic ‘snow cone’ takes shape at B.C. park near Clearwater

Snow cone forming at Wells Gray Provincial Park one that would make Disney’s Queen Elsa proud

Indigenous leaders, politicians say Trans Mountain report flawed

The National Energy Board has endorsed an expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline a second time

UPDATE: Reports of rashes prompt closure of all Harrison Hot Springs pools

Public pool available after Fraser Health shut down all five mineral pools until further notice

Legislation to protect B.C. farmland comes into effect

Regulations enhance food security, encourage long-term farming

Have you heard the legend of Shuswaggi, the Shuswap Lake monster?

Witness accounts as old as 1904, and as recent as 2018, place a creature in the lake’s depths

UPDATE: B.C. ticket holder winner of $25.9-million Lotto Max jackpot

Next draw set for Mar. 1 with an estimated jackpot of $10 million

B.C. weavers to help Alaska Native project honouring survivors of violence

Dozens of Chilkat and Ravenstail weavers from all over North America will be weaving 5-inch-by-5-inch squares

B.C. skip Sarah Wark and team eliminated at Scotties Tournament of Hearts

Nontheless pretty impressive stuff from the 24th-ranked team in the country

Pope’s sex abuse prevention summit explained

It’s A high-stakes meeting designed to impress on Catholic bishops the global problem

Most Read