Tsartlip First Nation’s Geronimo Canoe Club will complete an epic paddle from reserve lands to Victoria as the start of fundraising activities to get the team to the World Distance Championships in Australia.
The fundraising paddle will take place on Friday, June 14, and the day will culminate in a Seafood Fundraiser at Songhees Wellness Centre. The event promises to be a celebration of the paddlers’ skills, as well as featuring an art auction and seafood feast.
The team, who are all from Tsartlip First Nation, have pedigree, having won the Canadian Canoe Championships in 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017. They hope to bring their skills and culture to the world stage, by competing in Australia between Aug. 9 and 16. The World Distance Championships has its roots in traditional Polynesian paddling and is run by the International Va’a Federation, which has been operating since 1981. There are sprint and distance events, with the main race being a gruelling 24 kilometres.
Last year, the team competed in Tahiti and they describe race week as an opportunity to express their culture and learn from others, as well as a tough mental and physical challenge. Team members say one of their best memories was at a cultural evening, when Maori paddlers from New Zealand were intrigued by what they heard and approached them to ask questions about Tsartlip First Nation culture.
Joe Seward, 33, has been canoeing since he was five and describes himself as a fourth-generation paddler. He’s a veteran of the 11 man, six man, two man and solo races on the traditional war canoe racing circuit, and an integral member of the team.
“It’s tough physically but also you need to be emotionally and mentally strong too,” he says, noting, “We follow our beliefs and the spiritual connection to our surroundings; our canoes and our paddles, the water. We look to that to gain some strength and help get us through it.”
Geronimo Canoe Club was started by Ivan and Madeline Morris and the team are direct descendants. They keep the founding values of the club alive and train most days in local waters.
The team members are George Horne, Len Morris, Gus Morris, Jasper Morris and Joe Seward.