Keepers of the Athabasca hosted the first of its ‘Flowing into Right Relationship’ workshop series earlier this month.
We’re told by Keepers’ communications co-ordinator Jule Asterisk that around 50 people participated in the three-day-long trek down the Athabasca River.
“There were about 15 youth, 10 Elders, 24 adults and there were two babies!” she says.
Paddlers started their voyage at Mirror Landing in Smith, set up camp at Tomato Creek (which we hear was a traditional stopping place for Indigene, fur traders, settlers and travelers) and then arrived at the River Rats Festival in Athabasca on July 1st.
“I introduced our 11 paddlers to about 200 audience members at the River Rats festival,” says Asterisk. “The Driftpile drummers played them an entry song and an honour song and they got a round of applause.”
Asterisk adds, “We had a talking circle and people shared their stories. Many spoke about experience with the Athabasca River and their relationship with the river. Some people talked about their hopes for the future.”
A Keepers’ media release said the canoe voyage is supposed to open up conversation about difficult topics.
“It is our goal to bring people together and to speak truthfully about the challenges our great river and our peoples face when we reach for truth, reconciliation and healing the water, land and people.”
The release went on to say that the trip is meant to reel people back in to a serenity of sorts from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
“Our canoe trip will bring people back on the river, back on the old traditional highway, to connect with the wild land and move at a slower pace than our day-to-day lives. We all need to start listening to the water and land and to the way the Indigenous people managed the land. Hopefully, this way we can restore balance.”
Asterisk says Keepers will be presenting the workshops for the next two years.
Paddlers ‘Barb’ (front) and ‘Al’ (back) making their way down the Athabasca River.
Participants ashore getting ready to get back on the water.