For two sunny days, community members and guests gathered at Nitinaht lake to celebrate Paddle Days on June 7 and 8.
Each day began at Gus Bay, where Ditidaht Community School and guests partook in 100 m, 200 m, and 400 m canoe races.
Students and teachers battled for first, second, and third place while laughter, chanting, and cheering filled the North-East corner of the Lake.
Following the first morning of races were performances, shared meals and activities such as screen printing, axe throwing and archery, among others.
“[It] was really humbling to see so many guests here because we haven't been able to have events where we've been able to welcome other people for a long time,” said School Principal Emily Maclennane.
In the lead up to the event, students traveled to deliver traditional invitations in Ditidaht dialect to Nanoose Bay Elementary and Port Renfrew Elementary School to attend the event, she said.
Peter Amos of Squamish Nation, with roots in Hesquiaht, is an education assistant at the community school and coach for the Nitinaht Lake Paddle Club.
“I love the interaction that happens on the water when kids are competing,” said Amos. “You see them in a different light, [and] you see them in a different element on the water, and interacting with each other, making friends.”
Nitinaht Lake Paddle Club meets twice a week, on Tuesday and Thursday, to practice. Currently there are 12 registered members between the ages of 10 to 18, with one student, Karen McGregor, going to the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) for canoe/kayak.
McGregor is a member of the Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ First Nation and a Grade 8 student at the Ditidaht Community School. She had fun at the two-day event and said that canoeing and basketball were her favorite activities.
“They’re my favorite things to do,” she said.
When asked what she was most proud of, she said “working together with different people.”
For Levi Wilson of Gitga’at is a humanities teacher and coach with the Nitinaht Lake Paddle Club. He’s most proud to see the kids take leadership roles, get in the back of the canoe to steer, and take care of others.
“[I’m] just really proud and honored to be able to work with our students and so happy to see them out there doing what they love to do and welcoming our guests in a respectful way,” added Maclennane.