Wednesday, November 20, 2013

This week on SAMAQAN
Net laid out at the Preachers Eddy, Columbia River
Every year the salmon come back is a song composed and a print design of my good friend, Master Haida artist Robert Davidson, Guud San Glans and also known as Eagle of the Dawn. Each year the harvesting of salmon is a ritual in many first nations communities across Turtle Island and Robert has done his part to honor the food source. Human and salmon are intertwined.

Klickitat Falls 2011
In the first season of SAMAQAN we produced a story about the Columbia River fishery and how the tribes negotiated a treaty for salmon harvesting. The Columbia River is also used for hydro electricity and irrigation for the US Midwest. When a dozen dams were built in the mid-late 1950’s, the harnessing of water for energy robbed Canada of an important resource. The salmon could not swim past the largest three dams. 1000 miles of spawning beds, all of them in Canada, were left high and dry.
The historic fishing mecca, Celilo Falls near the Dalles dam, was inundated in 1957. The flooding of Kettle Falls when the Grand Coulee was built in 1940 preceded that.  This directly affected the people of the Okanagan Lakes area and our friends Tracey Kim Bonneau and her family. We spoke to Jeanette Armstrong in Penticton where the salmon are attempting a revival of some species. 
Setting the nets at the Preachers Eddy, Sherri Greene, Nez Perce

Although our people harvested salmon in many ways one of the most common modern day methods advocates the use of nets. Nets are used in a variety of ways. In ancient times people used natural fluctuations in water levels. Low tide weirs were common. And throughout the stretch of human development first nations have developed right along with everyone else. Today first nations are an integral part of commercial fishing. Special harvesting rights are entrenched in federal laws.
Adams River run photo by Ramsay Bourquin
 But will the salmon continue to return as they have throughout the millennium? Will we experience shortages in our salmon stocks? Are we guilty of over harvesting?

Adams River run photo by Ramsay Bourquin
This week’s episode of SAMAQAN is homage to the mighty resources of the Pacific Northwest, the Sockeye. In 2010 the famous Adams River Sockeye run returned with higher than expected numbers. The annual run peaks every four years and in 2014 the run is expected to equal the numbers of 2010. SAMAQAN has been holding on to most of the footage we gathered at the 2010 run until today. In tonight’s episode and throughout our website you will finds signs of the salmon.

Robert Davidson during filming of  "Abstract Edge".

To the artists, the fishing professionals and to the customary users of salmon we are very grateful for all that has been shared with the SAMAQAN crew. Of utmost importance is the way we use salmon. We store it in bottles, freeze filets and smoke most of our annual harvest. We try to make sure that there is a year’s supply, but never take more than we need. The entire crew of SAMAQAN is like this. Almost all of us were raised with salmon in our diets. We raise our hands to Every Year The Salmon Come Back.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Guest Blog from SAMAQAN Crew.

Ramsay Bourquin in Iskut
I was the production stills photographer on Samaqan: Water stories while covering 2012’s Tribal Journeys, and the Protocol was the culmination of a long pull for the many canoe families that traveled vast distances to reach this point (Olympia, Washington).  

I parked the van as the rest of the crew ran ahead to catch the action. Walking up to the protocol tent my hart was beating in excitement to witness something I’ve only heard about a few months before. The first thing you feel is the energy of the protocol grounds, smiling faces, art work, great food, laughs and the rumble of the drums reverberating from the massive protocol tent.

I entered the tent with a greeting from a welcoming Squaxin host and my camera ready. I stepped in to the past brought to the present by the honor, tradition, songs and dances of cultural protocol for the Paddle to Squaxin 2012. 

I cannot begin to tell of the importance of this annual event, but what I can say is that it is one of the most amazing cultural events hosted in North America. An event that makes sure the teachings and traditions of the many cultures along the Pacific North West gets handed down to the next generation.
 Here are some of the photos I took from the protocol Tent for the Paddle to Squaxin 2012.

Maori Contingent

Henare Tahuri

Alaska, Frank Nelson and Bella Bella

Vina Brown

Dawnda Joseph

Heiltsuk take the floor

I am from the Tahltan First Nations and grew up in the mountains of Northern British Colombia.  Our traditional songs and dances are slowly fading away, and in being surrounded by the culture of the coastal peoples so alive and well I was truly inspired.  Everyone should experience tribal Journeys.

Every song and every dance tells a story, the sharing of these stories during protocol is an experience no camera can truly capture. Shooting in the protocol tent was one of the most difficult shooting situations I have been in. Low mixed color temperature light with fast moving dancers, called for some quick thinking and missed shots. It was an amazing experience to be covering such a story with the Samaqan team, and one I will never forget.

Ramsay Bourquin

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

EP36 Landings

Tribal Journey’s BLOG
A Guest blog from Michael Bourquin
Camera and Sound for SAMAQAN

Michael Bourquin on location in Gulfport MS

Raised as a boats’ man in the interior of Northern British Columbia I was surrounded by lakes and rivers; so I find the ocean to be a little enigmatic and equally captivating. During the production of Water Stories season 3 I was fortunate enough to be the locations audio recorder at Squaxin 2012 during Tribal Journeys.

From up and down the West coast, Oregon, Washington, the coasts of British Columbia and points as far as Alaska; canoe families made the voyage to Squaxin to share and celebrate canoe culture. For me the most memorable experience with Tribal Journey’s would have to be the formality that surrounds the landings at the various host communities along the way.

When a canoe family paddles to shore, there is a song of greeting and a representative of that canoe will stand and make a formal introduction to explain who they are, where they are from and politely ask permission to come ashore to rest, eat and share in song and dance. Equally impressive was the welcoming songs of the host nation as they greeted the travel weary paddlers to shore to rest their bones and join in the feasting and celebration.

The final landing at Olympia was enormous! There were so many people. The size and scope of the Journey was much larger than I anticipated. It was nice to see the city of Olympia participating in the event and that everyone was welcome to join in the celebration. The spectators were abundant of all ages and cultural backgrounds.

I believe that there were over 100 canoes at the final landing; there was even a birch bark canoe from out East and a Maori Waka and crew from New Zealand. Being there for Squaxin 2012 was such a special treat, hearing the many songs of the paddlers, to witness and take part in the strong sense of community was empowering and uplifting. Tribal Journeys is an event I highly recommend whether spectator or participant especially if you reside on the West Coast it is a powerful healing experience.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


EP35:  Guest Blog from Producer & Show runner
By Kristy Assu

Kristy Assu on Location in Iskut, B.C.

2012 was the first time that three cultures from different parts of the world were merged to form one canoe family and I was fortunate enough that last year to witness their canoes among 88 others that landed on the shores of Squaxin Island. This was first time the Anishinaabe people from Ontario, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and the Maori from New Zealand participated in Tribal Journeys, and our crew was able to witness the many stages of their adventure. 
Maori Canoe Family
In 2007 an idea was built out of a trade mission between the Maori people and the people of Skokomish to build a replica war canoe. This idea was originally supposed to be to build a model canoe but then the idea got bigger, 20 feet bigger to be exact. This was when the Maori Waka (Maori Watercraft) was started and in 2012 Dr. Takirirangi Smith and a group of Maori traveled back to Washington State to finish what they started so that they could join the Paddle to Squaxin. Dr. Takirirangi Smith along with Skokomish artist and carver John Smith made a plan to finish this canoe on time for the 2012 Paddle to Squaxin and they did just that, but better. They ended up merging the Maori Waka and the Skokomish canoe to form one to signify their unity during this journey. 

Dr Takiri Rangi Smith & John Smith
Our team was also able to catch up with Anishinaabe Canoe Builder Wayne Valier from Lac de Flambeau to witness the final stages of construction of the Birch Bark Canoe. We show Wayne as he prepares the canoe for its first launch into the Ocean in Skokomish that is celebrated from the shore. We were in for a surprise because it was our second season Waterwalk friends, Josephine Mandamin. Tina Kukahn-Miller and Sylvia Plain who would be part of the international canoe family.

Sylvia Plain and Henare Tahuri, with Wayne Valier and Myeengen

Through this journey we saw and traveled with many canoe families but none like the Maori Waka, the Skokomish canoe and the Anishinaabe Birch Bark canoe that all traveled together on this epic journey out to sea. The merging of cultures was definitely a site to see, weather it be on the water, in the carving shed or during protocol where we got to see some of the traditional songs and dances. This episode of Samaqan: Water Stories is definitely a must see. You realize in that moment when you watch the canoe’s as they paddle their way to Squaxin Island, just how similar our cultures from different worlds are, our dances, our stories, our love for nature, our love of the water and our love for one another.

                                      (Our spirit is connected to water ~ Dr. Takirirangi Smith) 

This quote from Dr. Takirirangi Smith in this episode  is something that resonated with me on a personal level. I grew up on the west coast of British Columbia and I’m from a commercial fishing family where life is on the water and still to this day I feel a spiritual connection to water that is hard to explain. This is the same for many First Nations and Aboriginal cultures from all across the globe, especially the ones that participate in Tribal Journeys.

A Birch Bark Canoe in the southern Salish Seas

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

SAMAQAN episode 34 tonight

Kwumut Lelum child and family services is an agency on Vancouver island who provide an important social service for aboriginal youth who need it. They hire Elders for counselling on cultural matters. Each year for the last 4 years the management has sent a team of paddlers to Tribal Journey. This week we feature their story.

Willie Seymour is one of the Elders who has traveled with the Kwumut Lelum Canoe family. We first met Willie at a skippers meeting held in Chemainus, April 2012, B.C. where he gave a rousing pep talk to the people in attendance."the canoe must be respected, respect the paddle. They both come from the cedar tree".
Willie Seymour
Many of the children with the Kwumut Lelum canoe come from either broken homes or are orphaned. They have been in care and often need the kind of guidance that people like Willie can offer. To prepare for the long journey they practice paddling, learn about personal behaviours and how to work cooperatively as a team. Many life skills are attached to their journey and for some life lessons become the best part of the journey.

Each canoe family that travels on the annual paddle needs a support system. Along with the elders and the cultural factors that pertain to their involvement a support boat is hired to accompany the canoes ( this year they had two canoes). That boat belongs to Arnie Robinson, originally from Ahousat, B.C. According to Arnie, the Elder is of critical importance to the journey and that almost every canoe has their own.
Freda and Arnie Robinson with Arvid Charlie
"Willie plays a key role, not just for the kids but for the rest of us too. Everyday he teaches us new words in the language. He will sing songs and teaches the songs to the kids and it becomes a very rewarding and enjoyable experience." A retired fisherman Arnie owns the perfect rig, a 40 foot boat formerly used for commercial fishing. "We travel with them each day and make sure they take breaks and have some element of safety. It's a gruelling journey?"

We watched the kids paddle everyday and you could see the joy in their smiles and hear the laughter in their voices. One day when the crew was aboard the support boat our director Marianne Jones decided to make their lunch. After a few hours paddling anybody would be hungry. She described the youth as really appreciative of having a change of cooks. They joked and chided one another that this is how it should always be.

Everyday for two weeks the paddlers would work for 8-10 hours with only one meal break. When they landed on traditional shorelines, almost each night, they would engage in cultural protocol. First of all it was ritual to ask permission to come ashore. After landings, then the host First Nation would have a feast after which they would share songs and dance. Sometimes they would go for hours. That was one of the things about Tribal Journey that amazed me the most. The songs.

Back in Nanaimo the kids practiced and practiced their singing and dancing. But the Maestro who taught them the songs was none other than Willie Seymour. Now you have to understand that Willie was raised in traditional matters. He was brought up as a Speaker in the Traditional feast house. There Are no microphones or loud speakers. He must bellow to be heard. During his training he would climb to high points and speak as loud as he could raising his voice each time until he could be heard echoing in the valley below. This is also how he learned to sing.
Cultural workout in Nanaimo
The exchange of songs and dances is very special here. For many of the participants it is the first time they have heard these songs. Yet for others they were raised with the music as an integral aspect of their lives, some songs that predate the arrival of Europeans and others composed by contemporaries. Only people familiar with west coast culture will have heard the songs. I have lived here for twenty years and I had only heard a fraction of the songs I heard duringTribal Journey. I was floored.

Everyone insisted that I had to hear the Ahousat singers. I had a preview when I heard a few in Chemainus. I had another when I heard them again during the landings at Solo Point. They lived up to their billing. But the best was yet to come. When I sat in the audience and listened to the singers of the United Cowichan Tribes, mostly from Duncan B.C. at Squaxin, I was indeed moved to tears at the depth, the majesty and the inner peace their singing created in me. I could swear I was in ancient times momentarily lifted to a sacred place. This was a truly spiritual experience for me. Nirvana.

Buts that's not all. There was not one piece of music I did not like. William Wasden was there to sing with Frank Nelson's family. I am very familiar with his singing. I have taken to calling him the Pavarotti of the west coast. And there are many others.

For anyone not familiar with Tribal Journey, put it on your bucket list. I am telling you that you will never regret it. Next year Tribal Journey is headed to Bella Bella for Qatawas 2014. Cultural protocols are scheduled from July 13-19, 2014. Be sure to make your plans early. Bella Bella is not as advisable as Olympia Wa, where the canoes landed in 2012. To get there requires booking your ferry ride on BC ferries, or flying the with Pacific Coastal, unless you have your own boat. Accommodations will surely be challenging. But our friends, NALA winds are pretty psyched to be hosting.

Bella Bella is located in the pristine Great Bear coastal region. It's is one of the most beautiful locations on earth. Kwumut Lelum is going. Are you?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


In 2014 the Heiltsuk are planning a “Big Do”. The Paddle to Bella Bella, QATUWAS 2014, is picking up speed as Frank and Kathy Brown, Walter Campbell and a host of other canoe people remain busy charting the blueprint for what will be for them 21 years of Tribal Journeying. The Qatuwas festival was hosted in Bella Bella B.C. in1993.

The community is located in what is famously known as the Inside passage, a series of deep channels that serve as a highway to ferries and fishing vessels. The paddle from Prince Rupert is 98 Nautical Miles and could take about two days, the entire paddle being in pristine coastline, dotted with rocky shores and sandy stretches of beach. But it depends on where you are coming from.

According to Walter Campbell one of the principal skippers for the NALA Winds team, “Not too sure about miles on the water (from Vancouver) and from this years journey from Vancouver to Bella Bella it would take about 16 days on the water.” Captain Wally has been in town promoting the QATUWAS 2014.


On May 19, 2013 a potlatch was held by Athalis Frank Brown and family. It was my first time in the community and the hospitality was incredible. It was a two day event and a skippers meeting was held prior to the family business. Frank performed a chiefs dance and it was a privilege to witness.

Frank Brown dances at his potlatch
This week on the third season of SAMAQAN we feature a short glimpse at the efforts of the NALA winds Canoe family when they are in their element. During the Paddle to Squaxin Island in 2012 Frank, Kathy and the NALA Winds team opened their journey to us. Our idea for Tribal Journey was to feature various canoe families.

Our cameras would follow NALA winds periodically, as we weaved back and forth between canoe families. One day near the end of their paddle we asked the NALA family for a day to play with the camera shots. We got some great material that can be seen on the Digital component of our TV series.

My hope is that you will see how hard working they are for the sake of their cause. Frank and Kathy Brown have spent nearly their entire lives in helping to forge ties with other people who love nature, sea going societies whom are reviving the ancient highways of their ancestors. But they are wary for the health of the ocean.


It is no small irony that the paddlers of 2014 will be going close to where Oil tankers may one day dominate traffic. In Frank and Kathy’s backyard, the Spirit Bear, the white bear, lives and breathes a sheltered life. In the waters that surround Bella Bella there are Whales, Salmon, Halibut, Herring, Crab and countless cod that provide the world with fresh seafood. Oil Tanker Traffic is a major concern. If there was a Tribal Journey I would recommend people witness, it has to be  QATUWAS 2014. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


                                             TRIBAL JOURNEY

The least talked about cultural event that I know of takes place every summer in the month of July and culminating at months end on the traditional shoreline of some First Nation on the West Coast. The event has come to be known a Tribal Journey.

I first came to the west coast because I love the ocean. That was forty years ago. I was only 17 at the time and I hitchhiked all the way from Tobique First Nations in New Brunswick. I traveled to Victoria and dipped my feet in the Pacific Ocean and came right back to Vancouver to participate in the Red Power movement.

In 1972 there was no Tribal Journey. So what is it? Why is it important to me?

Those who know about the journey are laughing at me right now. Well, each summer the west coast First Nations participate in a canoe festival of sorts. Dugout carved canoes made of huge cedar logs have a long history here. The ocean going canoe is a vessel for food gathering and was sometimes used for war. They were also the only means of traveling from one part of the coast to the other.

Most canoes are carved from a giant tree. Others are made from cedar slats. This is because there are fewer large enough trees to carve a canoe. The practice also suffered a setback when the First Nations were forbidden to make ceremonial art. A water sport company known as Clipper Canoes recently made a mold and they are now constructing these vessels from fiberglass and Kevlar. This has helped those nations that have neither the access to tree’s and canoe builders.

Back in the day these canoes were mostly used as the vessel of the sea. They were practical and essential tools of survival. Today they are mostly symbolic.

                                                    NALA Winds arrive in Squaxin. Skippers Wally and James are standing

The annual summer journey started rather modestly in 1986 when a young Heiltsuk man and his wife decided that as a project they would have a canoe carved and paddle to EXPO 86 held in Vancouver BC. Frank Brown (Bella Bella BC) and Kathy Brown (Ahousat) became enthralled at the experience of being on the ocean with an ancient vessel. They decided then that hosting a canoe journey would be an amazing experience. At about the same time another person in the state of Washington was brewing something up.

In 1989 Seattle had their EXPO and a gentleman from Quinault Nation, Emmett Oliver, organized the Paddle to Seattle. Frank and Kathy seized the moment and approached Mr. Oliver to paddle to Bella Bella for what was to become Qatuwas, a festival that was the seed that led to what is today the largest gathering of its kind in the world.

                                                                                        NALA WINDS: Name of the Bella Bella Canoe Family

The story of Tribal journey is one I have always wanted to capture for Canadian television audiences. Tonight and for the next six weeks I am happy to bring you the result of what our team has put together, the story of the Canadian and international canoe families who hold sacred, their connections to water in this remarkable story of renaissance and cultural renewal.