Every time Tallula enters her family kitchen, she is greeted with a pleasant reminder that she can accomplish great things. Hanging on the wall near her dining table is a 4-foot paddle that Tallula carefully carved from a single plank of x̱ápay̓ap – or red cedar.
Tallula is one of 10 teens who participated in the eight week Portage Paddle Workshop, hosted by Sea to Sky Community Services Youth Services over the summer. Offered for the first time to teens, the program could not have come at a better time.
The closure of the Squamish Youth Resource Centre in March of 2020, combined with pandemic related restrictions, meant fewer opportunities for youth and a higher risk of isolation. The two month program, held at the Loggers Sports field, allowed youth to develop a new craft, share stories, learn about Indigenous traditions, and spend time out of doors with their peers and members of the woodworking and arts community.
When Tallula heard about the new workshop, she said her immediate response was, “We get to make a paddle? That’s sick! I want to do that!”
At 18, Tallula knows that the program – free to youth — was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The teens were taught by Squamish Nations Artist Art Harry and renowned woodworker Lenny Rubenovitchit, along with guest instructors, and they had access to a wide range of specialized tools.
Constable Kelly Dean, of the Integrated First Nations Policing Unit, was one of the community members who periodically dropped in on the workshop. Having previously completed the paddle making program under the leadership of Art and Lenny, Constable Dean was keen to share the experience with youth participants.
On September 30th, the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, the teens were given a special opportunity to use their paddles in a canoe pull on Alice Lake. Constable Dean skippered Little Thunderbird/ ininyaxa7u-ul-lh – a 28 foot, youth canoe. During the journey, the crew learned first-hand nchú7mut, which translates to one heart, one mind.
“A canoe that size has a mind of its own,” Constable Dean says. “Everyone has to be on the same page. The only thing we are focused on is pulling together.”
“Being on the lake was magical,” Tallula adds.
The Portage Paddle Workshop is one of a number of SSCS youth service programs designed to improve the well-being of youth through life skills building, recreational activities, and arts and culture. In June, a new Youth Hub will open as part of Foundry Sea to Sky, located in the Buckley Avenue Development.
SSCS extends its gratitude to the large community of role models and supporters who came out to make the program a positive, enriching experience for youth. In particular, our thanks to facilitators Art and Lenny, as well as Constable Dean and his colleague Constable Gareth Bradley, the Squamish Arts Council, the Men’s Shed and the many other volunteers and sponsors who joined us to make the youth workshop series a success.
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