Canoe Journey Special to Delta School Trustee

Category: District

Being out on the water can be such powerful medicine. That’s how Ladner’s Rhiannon Bennett described her recent experience at the 17th annual Pulling Together canoe journey.

Article by Ian Jacques, Delta Optimist

Bennett, who grew up on Musqueam traditional territory in Ladner, is a Delta school trustee and has been part of these journeys for the past decade.

“My cousin Nathan Wilson was on one of the first journeys and was the skipper of a Tsawwassen First Nation canoe for a number of years, so it had a profound impact on his life,” she recalled. “He was always trying to drag the rest of our family out onto the water so we could have the same experience. It wasn’t until I started working for the TFN in 2006 I had the opportunity to go. That first journey had such a huge impact on my life and each journey since has had different impacts on me every time.”

This year’s journey took the 20-plus canoes and 300 canoers, representing First Nations youth, elders, community members and public service agencies, on a 10-day trip along traditional waterways from the Sunshine Coast to Vancouver. The journey began on July 5 and wrapped up July 14 in Vancouver where the group landed in Vanier Park on traditional Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh territories as part of Vancouver’s 150+ celebrations.

Bennett has been on the Pulling Together Canoe Society board of directors since 2013, serving as president since 2014.

“I saw that the organization was growing, but needed some more structure. I just really see that this organization has a huge opportunity for reconciliation,” she said. “It’s hard to put into words the powerful medicine of being out in the water, that’s why we always encourage as many high ranking officers to be in the canoes so they can really understand what they are supporting.”

Bennett said the canoe itself is such a metaphor for life, which is why each journey has a special place in her heart.

“Everybody has to be pulling together in the canoe. Everybody has to have a light heart and a good mind, because as soon as someone is in a bad mood, the canoe gets really heavy and the work gets very hard,” she said.

“When your paddles are in sync, you feel good and the canoe feels good, so you can translate those feelings into so many other aspects of your life. When you work together life can be so much easier when you are on the same path and work in the same direction together.”

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Photo: Rhiannon Bennett is pictured with her 15-month-old daughter Maelona Williams, partner Wendall Williams and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson on July 14 at the City of Vancouver’s 150+ event Gathering of Canoes. Robertson travelled to Vanier Park in the Urban Native Youth Association canoe. Photograph By Tim Matheson