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Taking Back Our Waters

KL Nations celebrate Indigenous People’s Day by enacting right to fish

National Indigenous People’s Day is often a time for us to gather and celebrate our culture, our resilience, and our families. For Kw’umut Lelum’s 4 Seasons of Culture team, it was also an opportunity to celebrate our inherent rights, and enjoy a little friendly competition in the process.

The Ku’ki’youk (fishing with a hook) Fishing Derby launched from Shell Beach in Stz’uminus in the early hours of June 21st. 20 boats from 4 different Nations took to the choppy waters in search of the largest ling cod and a chance to win some great prizes. But the real winners of the day were our Coast Salish children and youth – each registered boat was required to have at least one participant under 18 – who were given the opportunity to learn an important lesson about the right to provide food for their community.

As an avid fisher herself, Cecelia Harris knows first-hand some of the barriers our Coast Salish people face out on the water. She has experienced harassment from people who are ignorant about her inherent right to fish the coastal waters of Vancouver Island. “I want our young ones to understand that they have a right to be here,” Says Cecelia, “they have a right to feed their families”.

As the vessels began to return to Shell Beach for the weigh-in, people gathered on the shore with their catch, sharing stories about their day and the “one that got away”. The winner of the day was a 39.5 pound monster cod, caught by Cecil Sylvester (see complete list of winners below). Families were encouraged to donate their catch to continue the cultural teachings of fishing: KL’s Canoe Life crew will learn to fillet the fish and then donate them to elders in their community.

KL is planning on making the derby an annual event, and hopes that even more families can join next year. Because, as Doug Harris shared with us “It’s a feeling of nutsamaat shqwuluwun – to be able to be with my kids on the water, to be safe – it’s a good thing for all of us”.

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