Tribal Canoe Journeys is an annual Indigenous cultural gathering on the Northwest Pacific Coast. Over the last three decades, the gathering helped the Heiltsuk Nation of Bella Bella, B.C. heal from intergenerational traumas and revitalize their culture, which was nearly lost as a result of colonialism and the Residential School system. Since its unofficial beginning in 1986, the gathering has grown and now involves hundreds of canoes and thousands of participants paddling to different host communities all the way from Alaska to Oregon.
‘Glwa: Resurgence of the Ocean-Going Canoe’ follows Frank Brown and a group of Heiltsuk youth as they paddle down the coast of Washington State to honour the invitation of ancestral groups of the Nisqually Tribe for Tribal Journeys 2016. Over a period of twelve days, the journey helped youth learn and revitalize their cultural songs, dances, stories, language, teachings, and other traditions. On the journey, youth also reconnected with the natural environment and with other coastal Indigenous Nations, and began to reverse intergenerational trauma.
HEILTSUK & NUU-CHAH-NULTH
Vina Brown is an Indigenous scholar and yoga instructor who teaches classes at the Northwest Indian College. She has participated in Tribal Canoe Journeys her whole life and was raised within Heiltsuk territory, where she witnessed the resurgence of her own Heiltsuk culture. Vina holds a a Bachelor of Arts degree in Native Studies and Leadership from NWIC and a Masters of Jurisprudence in Indigenous Law from the University of Tulsa.
Hillary Beattie is a researcher and filmmaker whose work explores social and ecological issues. She is the recipient of several academic awards and scholarships. She holds a certificiate in Documentary Filmmaking from Seneca College, as well as a Bachelor of Arts degree in Human Geography from the University of Winnipeg. She co-directed this film as part of her Master of Environment degree from the University of Manitoba, which she is currently completing.
Frank Brown has 30 years of experience with canoe journeys. He has coordinated multiple journeys and gatherings, including the Qatuwas gatherings in Bella Bella in 1993 and 2014. He produced the award-winning films ‘Voyage of Rediscovery’ (1990) and ‘Qatuwas: People Gathering Together’ (1997). He works in the Aboriginal forestry, fishing, and ecotourism industry and is an adjunct professor at Simon Fraser University.
Ian Mauro is a filmmaker and Associate Professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Winnipeg. Mauro is a pioneer of multi-media methodologies, scholarship and education. He uses participatory video to collect, communicate and conserve local and indigenous knowledge. He has directed several award-winning films including ‘Qapirangajuq: Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change’ (2010), co-directed with Zacharias Kunuk. Mauro is Hillary Beattie's thesis supervisor.
This film was a collaboration between Heiltsuk community members Vina Brown (co-director) and Frank Brown (co-producer) and non-Indigenous university researchers Hillary Beattie (co-director) and Ian Mauro (co-producer). The film was made using ‘participatory video’ techniques. Each stage of the filmmaking process – from planning, shooting, editing and distributing – was developed and overseen by Heiltsuk community members with support from their academic partners. The process also involved teaching Heiltsuk youth filmmaking skills so they could help document their own journey. In this way, the film was produced through a unique process between Indigenous community members and researchers, and is a demonstration of reconciliation in action through participatory filmmaking.