Monday, June 20, 2011

Paddles with Wolves on Indian Arm

Well, to be more precise, we were paddling with the "wolf" clan of the Coast Salish First Nations, people - with Takaya Tours, to be specific.

In the language of the Salish, "takaya" means "wolf". I guess since we were paddling on Indian Arm, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean, technically, that would make us sea wolves. But I didn't see Jack London or even Edward G. Robinson there, so I guess I'll let that one pass...

However, as I am sometimes wont to do on this blog, I digress.

Our trip consisted of a full morning's excursion that combined outdoor adventure, culture and nature.

Takaya Sea wolves - ready to paddle!

A short drive from downtown Vancouver brought 11 of us to our put-in/takeout points in Cates Park, known traditionally as Whey-ah-wichen, Salish for "facing the wind."

Our interpretive guide, Laura Leigh Yuxweluptun'aat, began our journey with an explanation as to the history of the area and what it meant to her people, the original inhabitants of the area.

First came a blessing in her native tongue, a prayer for a good journey. Then she and canoe guide James Healy drummed and chanted as part of the ceremony to send us on our way.

They also explained about the paddles we'd be using in our traditional ocean-going canoe. One side contained an image of their clan symbol, the wolf; the other side an "eye" painted to help guide the canoe.
At rest on Indian Arm.

Proper paddling means the eye should always be facing backward, towards the stern of the canoe. 

Of course, there were some non-traditional chores to attend to as well, like digging out the rain gear and picking out, then adjusting the PFD's we had to wear.

Following tradition, we greeted our canoe as we entered, with, "Hello, Dancing Serpent, I'm coming into the canoe." It also lets anyone else already in the canoe that someone else is getting in, and rocking the boat at that point is not really a good idea.

Soon, we were off and paddling up the inlet, passing forested beaches and some other small craft, including some people fishing from a rubber dinghy and a pair of kayakers out for a morning paddle.

While it was not raining at this point, the mist-shrouded shores around us created a mystical feel to our environment.

At various points along the way, we would stop for rests, and Laura Leigh would share stories from her people, handed down orally, generation after generation.

As we approached a sheltered point on the opposite shore where we planned to take another break, I spied a great blue heron, serenely walking along the water's edge, looking for some tasty fishbits, no doubt.

Laura Leigh shares Salish stories.
The heron was one of several birds we saw during our trip, including several cormorants, a Pacific loon or two and a marbled murrelet.

I occasionally scanned the sky to see if I could spot a bald eagle, but no luck this time at catching a glimpse of the feathered monarchs of the coastal airways.

A harbor seal also popped its head up briefly, but didn't linger, quickly diving back into the depths of the ocean.

All too soon, our journey came to an end.

Schedules being what they are, we knew we'd have to come back another day if we wanted to participate in an ancestral rainforest walk, or sample a traditional salmon feast which Takaya offers as an option to its tours.

No comments:

Post a Comment