Tribal Journeys, also referred to as Qatuwas, or ‘People Gathering Together,’ is planning to return to Bella Bella this year, 21 years after its first gathering was held in 1993.
The Heiltsuk Nation will host the event, with 100 canoes, 1000 pullers and over 5000 visitors from as far south as Washington State and as far north as Alaska expected to attedn.
The Ocean going canoe was and is a social and cultural keystone amongst the Heiltsuk people. They were the traditional mode of travel that was used for harvesting resources from the land and sea, for commerce and trade as well as for social, cultural and political purposes. During the last 150 years the canoe usage has been in decline.
With the growing awareness of the increasing loss of their language and culture, there was a strong belief that the revival of the ocean going canoe would be an important vessel for healing, empowerment, self-determination, youth and community development.
The Heiltsuk have played a key role in the resurgence of the ocean going canoe culture along the Pacific North West Coast as they carved a canoe and paddled from Bella Bella to Vancouver for Expo 86, in 1986 and in 1989 participated in the “Paddle to Seattle”, and at this event invited other tribes to travel to Bella Bella and hosted the 1993 Qatuwas “people gathering together festival”.
Today “Tribal Journeys” is woven into coastal First Nation’s culture. The majority of the tribal groups of the Pacific Northwest Coast (PNWC) participate in coastal canoe activities and the numbers continue to grow. For more than 20 years the Tribal Journeys have transformed the lives of thousands of aboriginal youth and adults. This has aided them to reconnect to their culture and has increased their self-esteem and strengthened their confidence as contemporary First Nation people.