Tla’amin Nation has its sights set on hosting the 2020 Tribal Canoe Journey, a gathering that could bring as many as 10,000 visitors to Powell River in August of that year. City of Powell River council passed a resolution of support for the bid at its November 16 meeting.
Tla'amin Nation citizen Drew Blaney appeared before council with Tla'amin youths Kyle Francis and Matthew Louie to request city council’s support for the event and to sing a traditional welcome song.
“What we're looking for is the City of Powell River to become a hosting partner with us here in our land and territory,” Blaney told council. “We've had such a great working relationship. We want to do this together.”
Mayor Dave Formosa, who attended the meeting by telephone, asked Blaney if Tla’amin was looking to bid on hosting the 2020 gathering, or if it had already been granted.
Blaney said while Tla’amin’s hosting was not assured, Tla’amin paddlers are planning to attend the 2018 canoe journey in Puyallup, Washington, where they will extend the invite to everyone for 2020.
“We're going to paddle our canoes down and invite them up to our territory,” said Blaney. “We will be moving ahead on this.”
Formosa said the current council may change with a municipal election in 2019, but added that the relationship between Tla’amin and the city will continue and he was sure next year’s council would want to participate.
Councillor Rob Southcott, who chaired the meeting, said even though there may well be a new council next year, that did not prevent the current council from passing a resolution of support, which it did.
Tribal Canoe Journey is an annual indigenous voyage that brings communities together from across the Pacific Northwest, as far north as Alaska and as far south as Oregon.
In 2017, the festival was held in Campbell River and brought approximately 8,000 visitors to the city. Blaney said it takes a lot of help to host an event so large.
“That's why we came here today, because we know we are going to need the support of the city if we're going to make this a possibility,” he said.
Blaney said this year’s journey was the first for Francis and Louie and it has a positive impact for young indigenous people. Francis said participating in the event was “life-changing.”
“I'm very proud that we are getting involved and we do have a voice,” said Francis. “I never knew that I had one until I started to sing, and started to talk to people who had the same experiences. It's amazing.”