Celebrating Indigenous Canoe Cultures

For thousands of years the traditional ocean-going canoe (“Glwa”) was the main means of transportation for Indigenous Peoples in the Pacific Northwest. It was an essential part of communities’ culture and way of life.  

The Sacred Journey exhibition takes visitors on a voyage to experience the resurgence of Northwest Coast canoe cultures, nearly lost as a result of colonization.  

“Amongst the Heiltsuk Nation and other Indigenous Peoples, the last 150 years have seen massive societal changes that have had devastating and detrimental impacts on our People. During this time of suppression and technology change, the ocean-going canoe, the Glwa, was almost lost,” said Chief Dr. Frank Brown, executive producer of Sacred Journey.  

“Tribal journeys have become an important teacher and cornerstone for awakening our cultures and languages. Sacred Journey allows us to share the knowledge and experience of this journey from an Indigenous point of view.”

The exhibition, produced by the Heiltsuk Tribal Council, SeeQuest Development and Greencoast Media, and presented by Vancity, is on display at Science World until February 20, 2023.

Reclaiming spiritual and cultural traditions

Sacred Journey tells the powerful story of a People reclaiming traditions and ways of life—particularly through annual Tribal Canoe Journeys taken to revitalize cultures, heal communities, and empower the next generation.  

“True Reconciliation requires listening, learning, unlearning and relearning. The Sacred Canoe Journey exhibition helps rediscover and reinstate the importance of the ocean-going canoe in Indigenous lives and culture in the Pacific Northwest,” said Jonathan Fowlie, Chief External Relations Officer who oversees Vancity's climate and impact areas.

“It powerfully demonstrates how Indigenous peoples are reclaiming a cultural mainstay nearly lost to colonization, using it again as a source of pride and empowerment."

Told by leaders and participants of today’s canoe resurgence for the first time, Sacred Journey unveils the Indigenous framework of Nuyum (traditional narratives) expressed through figurative art, immersive audio and extensive interactive video projections and displays.

Embark on this journey into the history and culture of the Heiltsuk maritime Indigenous People who have lived within British Columbia’s central coast for over 14,000 years. Admission to the exhibit is free for Indigenous Peoples.

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