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Strength and Family: Tehya’s Story

Tehya, 16, is part of the Singing Coho (Qualicum) canoe family, but has known the KL family since their first trip in 2009. Even though the island is her home, she loves to explore the world around her, meet new people and learn about other cultures. She is considering a future as a Nurse Practitioner that would allow her to travel to other communities in Canada, or even further abroad.

Tehya has been on an impressive 11 journeys. She describes the gruelling physical pace of some of the journeys, with 13-hour paddling days, as “physically and mentally draining. And then you have to do protocol! But the protocol is what raises you up. You know everyone’s songs by the end, and you know your ancestors are there supporting you.”

With so much experience under her belt, it’s no wonder that she often gets a seat at the front of the canoe, where she helps set the pace, along with the skipper. It’s an opportunity to learn how to lead – both in the paddle and in life.

Tehya says the Tribal Journey canoe family “feels like home”. She told a hilarious story about being on the open water and needing to use the bathroom. “I can usually hold it until we get to land, but I was pretty desperate.” Her skipper suggested she get in the water. “Do you know how cold that water is?” she laughs, “I do. I got thrown in the water at Puyallup for using bad language”. Instead, she opted to use the bailing bucket. Unfortunately, with the rocking of the canoe, the bucket tipped before she could toss the contents over the side. “Everyone was freaking out, that their stuff was getting pee on it. I told them ‘your blood, sweat and tears are all over this canoe – what’s a little pee gonna hurt?’” She was quick to add that no matter what conflicts happen on the water, they all get resolved pretty quickly. “Doesn’t matter if I’m mad at you today, I’m still gonna love you tomorrow,” she says, “That’s family.”

Photo Credit Randi Thomas

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