This past weekend's completion of the Hɛhɛwšɩn (The Way Forward) Reconciliation Canoe Journey Project, and gifting of the finished canoe to Tla'amin Nation, was what organizers referred to as the beginning of a multi-generational journey toward reconciliation.
And while the spirit of the weekend's events at Willingdon Beach and Tla'amin Salish Centre were celebratory in nature, the reconciliation journey is bound to be arduous and often painful.
A lot of residents of Powell River are unclear about the troubled history that settlers to this area created, and the harm that was done to the Tla'amin people in the process. Reconciliation events such as last weekend's canoe launch, and the accompanying Reconciliation Conversation Series at Powell River Public Library, are ways of educating people about the importance of addressing history and working toward making amends for the past.
City of Powell River councillor and Powell River Métis Society president Russell Brewer is absolutely correct when he warns against "romanticizing" reconciliation.
Hɛhɛwšɩn organizer Phil Russell speaks of the intergenerational damage and trauma inflicted upon first nations peoples, and conversations that need to happen between settlers and indigenous people to address these issues.
Genocide and hundreds of years of racism and discrimination is not something that can ever be completely repaired.
Acts of reconciliation are not going to happen easily; there is an immense amount of work to be done, and the Hɛhɛwšɩn project is just one positive example of how to begin the process of moving forward.
Tla'amin citizen Melvin Mitchell spoke of the intense symbolism the beautifully carved canoe will hold for future generations. With each journey of the canoe, the story of Hɛhɛwšɩn will be told.
The hope is that those area residents who witnessed the canoe project, and understand its true meaning of reconciliation, will pass that message onto the larger portion of the community’s population.
Unfortunately, the majority haven't yet entered an incredibly difficult conversation about a deeply shameful history.
Jason Schreurs, publisher/editor