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Photos: Giant First Nations canoe leaves Coquitlam to complete special healing journey to New West

The Grandmothers Healing Journey travelled by canoe from Spences Bridge to New Westminster.

A giant Haida canoe departed Coquitlam’s Maquabeak Park early Friday afternoon, May 24, to complete the final leg of its years-long journey down the Fraser River from Spences Bridge to Sapperton Landing in New Westminster.

Aboard the Grandmothers Healing Journey were three generations of paddlers representing First Nations communities from across British Columbia.

Their mission: to deliver a special community elements chest filled with artwork, stories and poems contributed 17 artists that will be on display at the New Westminster Museum and Archives in the Anvil Centre (777 Columbia St.) until Dec. 15.

The canoe’s journey replicates the migration of salmon with stops at various First Nations along the way to collect more letters, tokens, messages and reminiscences of healing and reconnection with ancestral lands.

In four years, it will head back up the river, just as the fish return to their birthplace to spawn.

One of the project’s artists, Rita Wong, said it was an honour to have her poems included in the wooden chest that is carried in a place of honour at the centre of the canoe.

She said the project bolsters the connection between First Nations communities and their ancestors, much of which has undermined by centuries of colonialism.

“There’s been an incredible cultural resurgence,” Wong said. “There’s so many stories.”