VANCOUVER, July 5, 2011—The steady drumbeats temporarily took my mind off the sprinkling of rain that was filtering through the trees in Cates Park, known as Whey-ah-Wichen to the Tselil-Waututh Nation, the “people of the inlet.” Before we embarked on our ocean-going canoe, it was important to follow the protocol of the Coast Salish culture.
“The front of your paddle blade is a clan crest,” said Laura Leigh Paul (whose traditional name is Yuxweluptun’aat), one of my group’s two guides. “The eye on the back of the paddle is to watch behind us for protection.”
The crouching red-and-black Takaya wolf stretched across the blade—its bright white teeth curling into a grimace. Only later, while we were canoeing in the protected waters of the Burrard Inlet, would I learn the significance of the wolf to this First Nations culture.
“The wolf is a symbol of the origin of our people,” explained Paul, as we paddled between the summer and winter homes of the Tselil-Waututh. “When a baby was abandoned in the forest after its mother died, a mother wolf raised the child.”
The canoe trip, run by Takaya Tours, aims to give visitors a rich view into this part of North Vancouver, as well as an understanding of the traditions of the Coast Salish people. It’s far better than a standard scenic boat cruise—which often substitutes food and drink for history and culture. Instead of leaving with a full stomach and memory of beautiful coastal views, my head was filled with songs and stories that directly connected to the places I visited. Plus, I got a bit of a workout by paddling the bright red canoe, a fiberglass replica of the traditional 25-foot cedar canoes.
Even though it rained lightly throughout the tour, I was too distracted by hearing the detailed legends to care about getting wet.
The West Coast canoe tour of Burrard Inlet lasts two hours. Contact Takaya Tours by phone (604-904-7410) or online (www.takayatours.com) for group rates and schedule.
Jill K. Robinson is an award-winning journalist and adventure seeker. Follow her adventures on dangerjillrobinson.com and Twitter @dangerjr. Jill and her husband are avid kayakers and own Half Moon Bay Kayak Company.
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