A youth group paddled 70 kms down Stuart Lake, from Yekooche to Fort. St. James. (Photo contributed)

A youth group paddled 70 kms down Stuart Lake, from Yekooche to Fort. St. James. (Photo contributed)

Canoeists return from 10-day trip down Stuart Lake

Group paddled 70 kms from Yekooche to Fort St. James

Seven young adults recently returned from a long canoe trip down Stuart Lake.

“We paddled from Yekooche back to Fort St. James,” said Shawn Kangro, who oversaw the 70 km trip.

This is the second year the Nak’azdli Alternate Justice Centre has hosted the trip and Kangro said it has multiple benefits for the participating paddlers.

“A simple one is that they’re getting outside. They’re being active. They’re learning what’s available in the local territory,” said Kangro, adding that building relationships is another benefit. ”They’re meeting their distant family members or some not so distant. And often they’re family members that they hadn’t met before.

“So all of a sudden, now they have a whole new peer group that’s made out of extended family that all know the same skill. So if they ever wanted to go out again, they could.”

Mikoh Rose, 14 years old, participated last year, and again this year. She said it was a great experience.

“I definitely feel more grounded when I’m canoeing, having that peace of mind that my ancestors have been doing that and that I’m following in their footsteps,” said Rose. “And, of course, the being on the water is scary because the water is so powerful. So I keep that in mind too. And I never get too cocky.”

It’s also about learning to depend on each other.

“So everyone’s purposeful with what we’re doing, and relationships built within that 10 days are so much more have so much more depth than when you just see someone for an hour. A day. They overcome struggles together.”

It’s also about learning that you can do more than you think, Kangro continued, like paddling a lake for 10 days straight through sun and rain.

“I believe that these programs also create a sense of dependency on self. They accomplish things that they didn’t think they could have accomplished.”

It’s also a cultural learning experience.

“It’s a connection for them to be paddling the paths of their ancestors,” said Kangro. “We stayed at different islands, different beaches. Guy Prince came out and did some storytelling and some history of the land with the youth.”

The weather played ball for the first six days, with bright, hot sunshine but then the wind started to pick up, and then turned to rain.

“The last day we just got dumped on with rain. We woke up to pouring rain, it rained all day everyone was soaked by the end,” said Kangro. “But it was a skill set that got built up. Everyone learned how to paddle and be with each other in the sunshine and then as the winds picked up, it challenged their paddling skills, but they were able to do it because they’ve been paddling for so long, and then living outside for so long that by the time the rain picked up they had their systems in place and it didn’t really shut down anyone’s mood. Everyone dealt with it really well.”

Rose said the weather on the trip was humbling. They started taking the nice weather for granted at first. Then the wind started pushing them back.

“The days got longer so but it’s nice to have those challenges,” said Rose, adding that it was a great experience.

“I think that everyone should experience it for themselves, especially being on your own territory. It’s just so much more different in having in your mind that your ancestors were there and that you’re following them,” said Rose. “It’s just so grounding for yourself, especially in living in the city and getting to go back. It’s very nice to have those visits and have those experiences.”