Paddling brings people of all backgrounds and ages together, it waves away our differences and connects us to the water, land, and nature that surrounds us. It’s hard to describe the feeling you have in your boat, but we all know exactly what that feeling is.
Today, on Indigenous Peoples Day, it is important to remember that paddling is far more than competition, it is a pillar of life for First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples on Turtle Island and Indigenous peoples all over the world. We are all incredibly fortunate to share in the benefits and beauty of this sport on a cultural, spiritual, physical, and emotional level.
One organization that is leading the way to empower Indigenous youth and their communities through canoe-based outdoor recreation programs is Waterways Canada (Waterways). Waterways is an indigenous-led non-profit organization based in Manitoba that was created in the summer of 2020 by a group of individuals, two of which are indigenous competitive paddlers themselves. Their mission is to connect indigenous youth with their culture, lands and community while nurturing their mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Through their collaborative canoe programs, they provide indigenous youth with the tools they need to lead healthy lives and conquer any challenges they may face.
The programming Waterways provides enables Indigenous youth to connect to the water and rekindle their connection to elements of their culture that are critically endangered, such their indigenous languages. Many of their programs have grown exponentially since they began, with a high demand within Indigenous communities to get outside and embrace paddling while enriching their souls with their culture that was once lost. Waterways is proud to have programming in over 20 communities across Manitoba, celebrating and connecting Indigenous youth and communities through the sport of paddling.
To continue to grow this empowering and essential programming it requires significant funding. This year, Waterways was fortunate enough to receive a donation from a donor through the GiftPact Foundation that CKC helped facilitate that will enable this year’s programming to flourish and encourage Indigenous youth in Manitoba to continue to engage in their culture and identity through paddling. From supporting year-round planning to purchasing equipment, every dollar helps empower Indigenous youth to get out on the water and discover what they love about themselves, their culture, and canoeing.
There is a huge importance for indigenous youth and their communities to have an outlet and a place to connect with the land, their families, and their communities to rekindle their connection to their culture. For indigenous peoples, paddling is a way of life, a way of discovering their ancestry, learning powerful life lessons, and passing on their knowledge for generations to come. Waterways is an organization that is building a space for indigenous peoples to do just that, and it is something to celebrate today and every day.
For more information on Waterways and the work that they do, please visit Waterways Canada. You can also support Waterways through the Ultimate Canoe Tripping Raffle until July 4th, 2023. Tickets are available here.
We encourage you to take the time today to honour, reflect, learn, and celebrate the history, culture, and resistance of all Indigenous peoples across Turtle Island.
Photos Provided by: Waterways Canada