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Early in the summer, communities from several First Nations gathered for a Canoe Paddle Making workshop that took place at Thunderbird Hall in Campbell River. 

Over two weeks participants from two groups were offered 5 days to create a canoe paddle of their own. Dean Heron and Elder George Hunt Jr. were innovative in their delivery of instructions to the cohorts, weaving traditional and contemporary knowledge of cedar, tools and safety. 

Dean is the Indigenous Skills Lead and mentor for Construction Foundation; and George Hunt Jr. is a local elder from Wei Wai Kum that supported the facilitation of the workshop. Both of which were happy to be working in collaboration with community members from Wei Wai Kum, Wei Wai Kai and Campbell River. 

This was an outdoor workshop that included multi-generations in the first week, and primarily focused on youth in the second week. Participants developed an understanding of tool usage, safety protocols and cedar finishing. 5 days provided enough time for participants to turn a 2” x 8” x 6” piece of raw wood into a paddle – 1 day for forming, 3 days for shaping and 1 day for finishing.

“It was an absolute joy to facilitate cross-cultural sharing of knowledge through conversations,” shared Dean. “ This was an inspiring group – we had participants across a range of ages, including a 70 year old elder – it just goes to show, you are never too old to learn something new.”

With varying levels of engagement and success the workshop was flexible and included discussion of connected traditional protocols. One participant, who joined late, offered everyone salmon sandwiches from their harvest, while others discussed how patience needed for carving supports beadwork as well. 

Deborah, one of the first week participants boasted, “We need more classes with youth and elders. [It’s] an awesome workshop, it was an uplifting, spiritual class – a connection to my ancestors and my granddaughter. I love learning any craft my ancestors did”. 

Our group of participants and facilitators were very thankful to the Seven Generation Steward Society, Cory Cliffe, Wei Wai Kum First Nation, Wei Wai Kai First Nation and the community of Campbell River for making it possible. The workshop was a dynamic success. 

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