The Ditidaht First Nation hosted the province at this year's BC Aboriginal canoe championships held Sept. 22 and 23 on Nitinaht Lake. Ditidaht has had a paddling program for 100 days, launching the initiative June 11 with classes held as part of the school curriculum.
At the beginning of that time, 50 per cent of the participants had ever paddled before. They have trained with Jason Anson, and his many friends. Anson, a sports scientist, has brought in many partners to help the young people of Ditidaht build their skills in preparation for the North American Indigenous Games slated for 2014 in Regina, including Olympic paddlers.
The Ditidaht team took five categories in the mainstream BC canoe and kayaking competition held in Nanaimo the weekend earlier. They won kayak K-1 Boys and Girls under 12. and the under 10.
Ditidaht beat out two other contenders to host the Aboriginal provincials. The community held a feast at the end of the first day of competition. They served up the Ditidaht's landmark dungeness crab, and a halibut and salad main dish.
Then there were the day's medals handed out. BC Kayaking presented elected chief Jack Thompson with a plaque to commemorate the day, and when he held it up he received a standing ovation from the crowd.
At the end of the day the community blanketed Anson and his spouse Eva Clarke, a teacher who has worked at the school for the past four years. Edgar family matriarch "Big Mama" said Anson "put a spark in the heart of our youth. They can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Chief Thompson said "I know things are going to change with the youth... We know we had a terrible life... they are going to change the atmosphere of our community into the future."
Said Anson, "It really took a community to really pull this canoe program together. .. I congratulate the community first for all that you have done. It's fanstastic."
Photographer Debora Steel