Secwepemc youth paddle the Thompson River with rural RCMP members

By Adam Donnelly
July 10, 2018 - 5:15pm

KAMLOOPS — For centuries, the Thompson Rivers were the highways for the Secwepemc people, who lived and travelled throughout the North and South Thompson Valleys in search of game and the plants and berries that would sustain them throughout the winter months.

Tuesday, a group of Secwepemc youth, led by the Tk’emlups Rural RCMP members embarked on a canoe journey down river from Pritchard as a way to reconnect with their roots, and make some new connections along the way.

While it may be a novelty for many of these Secwepemc youth, travelling by canoe was historically one of the main modes of transportation for the indigenous peoples of the Thompson River valleys.

“I thought it would be really fun, and it’d would be nice to meet new people,” Tanisha Terry, who lives near Hat Creek told CFJC Today.

“Well, I’ve always liked canoeing, and I’ve always done it,” James Celesta, from the Simpcw First Nation, explained. “This is my first time doing the RCMP [trip].”

“This is my first time and I really wanted to try it out and see if I could do it,” Zyla Neighbor, who is also from the Simpcw First Nation said.

The two-day canoe trip takes the youth from Pritchard all the way to Bruker Marina on Kamloops Lake, and was organized by Constable Becky Munro, a First Nations policing officer with the Tk’emlups RCMP. One purpose of the event is to help connect indigenous youth to their peers.

“We partnered with the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc band office and… their youth worker… just to get kids engaged and get them networking and have them have some healthy lifestyle opportunities,” Munro explained.

Tacoma George, who is a Councillor for Tk’emlups te Secwepemc said the trip is an opportunity to experience how many Secwepemc ancestors would have travelled before colonization.

“It’s a really great opportunity to have everyone together here to travel down the waterways our people have travelled since time immemorial,” George said. “[The river] is our highway. It’s really a great opportunity to see our youth come here today… with the RCMP to build those relationships with them.”

The Canoe journey is meant to expose these indigenous youth to members of the RCMP, in order to create a stronger connection between the police and the communities they work to protect.

“Part of that is just to know that we’re here to make everyone safe,” Munro said. “We want [the youth] to know us and know they can trust us.”

Zyla Neighbor says that’s an important purpose.

“I guess to know the RCMP as people, you know? Other than law enforcement, right?”

For Constable Munro, the trip is not only an opportunity to build relationship between the RCMP and indigenous youth, it’s also a chance to see the traditional territory of the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc people from a whole new perspective.

“We live in a gorgeous land, and I’m looking forward to being on the water, and getting to know some of the kids I don’t already know,” Munro explained.

Tuesday’s leg of the journey will finish at Pioneer Park in Kamloops, before the group paddles to Bruker Marina on Kamloops Lake on Wednesday.

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