There’s a crew of teenage girls from Squamish Nation hard at work on the shores of North Vancouver, pulling together along a new path while also following the paddles strokes of their ancestors on a new team with the North Vancouver Canoe Club.
Last year a group of girls known as the k’émk’emay, or Lil Geese, started participating in the ancient practice of war canoe racing. The team trains out on the water at the foot of Bewicke Avenue in North Vancouver, practicing their strokes and building up their power to be ready for races. The competitions give the girls a common goal to work for and encourages healthy lifestyles, said team head coach Heather Damian, who started the Lil Geese with the help of several old and new members of the club.
The time out on the water also offers strong connections to First Nations traditions that were nearly forgotten, said Damian.
With the help of a $5,000 grant from United Way, the team competed at races at Cates Park/Whey-ah-Wichen and Ambleside Park on the North Shore in June and July, with more races scheduled for the summer along the West Coast of British Columbia and into Washington.
Canoe pulling is an important part of Squamish Nation culture and a powerful community builder, according to Mike Billy, a lifelong participant who is a driving force behind the North Vancouver Canoe Club and strong supporter of the Lil Geese.