The Canoe Healing Project

The canoe healing Project has been inspired by Master carver Elmer Sampson. He dedicated his life to canoe carving, inspiring the youth to compete in traditional racing and gifting of canoes.
In honor of his memory and life’s work, we wish to revisit this tradition by inspiring the youth to bring back the canoe currency. This tradition by reawakening the traditional canoe culture.

2 thoughts on “The Canoe Healing Project

  1. When Elmer was participated in canoe racing; he was the lead strokesman on the canoe “Mermaid”. He was a most excellent stroke setting the beat of paddles hitting water; at the start of the race he set a very fast stroke which usually put the Mermaid ahead of the rest of racers. After three switches, from one side of canoe to the other, then he would “reach out”, using a longer stroke. The canoe would just glide and with great speed too. Mermaid was champion for years. It has a great history too, coming from the BC mainland, Chehalis I think, with a sister canoe. There were many races in Elmer’s paddling days; all over the mainland, and included Cultus Lake, North Vancouver; Burrard Indian Band. and in 1967, the Fraser River at the air force base area, Sea Island. This race was chaotic, the water ran faster further from the shore than closer to it; and Mermaid was in the faster water and watched the canoes closer to the river’s shore, forge ahead. At the firs turn, it was near impossible, many canoes tipped; the result many crews found themselves in the water drifting down a fast running water. Rescue took time too. Then on the Vancouver Island, races were at many communities, West Saanich; and in 1967 at Elk lake for the public to watch, 1967 was a centennial year. In the Cowichan Valley area, the race was at a lake on the way to Maple Bay. So many communities put on regattas; one after another, including the Malahat Band; of course races were at Shell Beach and Kulleet Bay on the Stzuminus Reserve. The canoe culture included not only heavy training like training runs from Shellbeach where Elmer lived, to the lighthouse, a 22 minute run; then a 40 minute run to the big rock a little more than half way to the village of Chemainus. On Saturday morning the training run might be over two hours, to Penelakut Island area. The Mermaid raced tug boats all part of training. The diet for paddlers was strict too, no rich or fatty foods until Sunday after races. The paddlers trained by running too, some distance to get a strong wind, endurance. The Elders, Steve and Dora Sampson, made the paddlers traditional medicine to drink. Elmer and the other paddlers, after taking the medicine would run, on the beach of Shellbeach, and “throw up”; a cleansing. Another tradition was to protect the canoe from other “snams”, medicine people who might jinx the canoe. The Elders would ensure Elmer and the crew would wash the canoe off using cedar limbs and needles; it was a very traditional culture; but the Mermaid would “pull off” win after win”; a lot of this traditional canoe culture has disappeared I think. Not only that, but it is expensive not, overly so, this is a challenge. So sad. Good to see the younger generations taking up the sport though.

    1. Such amazing history thank you for your words you honour me with your knowledge. Elmer and I had many talks about the old days, his hay day being number 1 Canoe champ. Elmer left me a lifetime of work to do. I’m looking forward to full filling his wishes. Dugout canoes will continue to be carved in his honour. Bless,wash and brush off very Canoe before during and after each Canoe is carved. Each Canoe is loved and treated as a member of the family. Thank you for your kind words

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