Sunday, June 7, 2009

True Leadership

A few days ago I was able to witness the finale of what can only be explained as the answer to my ancestors prayers. Although I was detained along the freeway in vanouver only moments away from the ferry terminals during the landing of the canoes, I and my best friend waited from 1:50ish until 8:40 to get on the ferry.

When we arrived, the sun was going down, the group was winding down and and I saw a glimpse into our past. I saw a gathering of nations, who formed a large circle, singing, laughing and dancing. I saw each group and memeber honored for their participation, their involvement and ther support! I saw my love, with a drum in his hand, singing, and dancing. I saw joy, i saw relief, i saw victory, i saw honor. i saw the sun dance as it went to bring light to another world. I saw pride, strength, unity, and friendship.

As a spectator, who arrived without the usual bang or grand entrance, i came in almost unnoticed. it is from this view that i felt the sudden wave of unexplainable emotion which overtook my body and its entirety. I saw our young people, being honored and treated with the respect they've earned, deserved and fought for. I saw a symbol of hope, for my people. I saw within this final day of song, dance ad celebration, that as long as these true leaders were around, our people have little cause for concern. Our songs were being sung, by the youth. our words were being spoken by our youth. our practices and protocols we being demonstrated by our youth. our people were represented in the strongest of lights, because of the will within our syilx paddlers.

This family reunion of paddlers, grounds crew, spectators, supporters and our ancestors had surpassed anything i have ever experienced in my life. i was actually speechless. me. i had nothing to say, i only watched the aurora of what was happening in front of me and felt the heavy burden of doubt be removed off my back. Every doubt I had about the direction our culture and livelihood was heading -disappreared. Every doubt i had about culture being replaced with economic opportunity and tokens and trinkets, vanished. because i saw it happen. i saw both my past and my future shining in front of me and i basked in all its glory.

As my presence became more apparent, and as i was introduced to the many people who were there i heard some of the most amazing stories of truimph. i heard stories of how our paddlers abilities were doubted because of their age, and then heard how they paddled up and down the toughest of waters numerous times, when the adult and more experienced crews barely made one run. I heard of moments of defeat and fear disappearing because of the voices of our youth which sang songs to the water as the paddles used the waves as a stick does a drum. I heard stories of how our young paddlers strength and endurance pushed the limits and boundaries of every other paddler on the water. I heard how the sudden bursts of energy, laughter and smiles ceased tension amongst the group as a whole. i heard about how much other paddle crews and spectators gained a higher sense of understanding the respect of who we are and what we do, by following the LEAD of our youth. I heard how the okanagan people 'KwuSukwnaqinx' were the at the centre of it all and how loved and respected our people were, because of these paddlers.

Yet, i heard no speeches from them about what they were doing, what they were going to do, how they were doing it or why. i never heard any of them say one word about the impact they have and have had on our people, our nation or our future.

Instead, they sang the songs they knew and the songs they created. they used our words in a way in which everyone knew what those words meant. Instead they created change.

This is what TRUE LEADERSHIP really is. this is what CHANGE really looks like. this is what our ancestors meant when they said the youth are the ones...who will bring it back!

Had I been there on time i would have watched the launch, welcomed them on shore, had supper with them, visited with my love, congratulated the youth and then i would have gone home on the last ferry and been home around 2am. I was exactly where i was supposed to be and arrived exactly when i was supposed to arrive.

Victoria Baptiste


  1. This beautiful piece was written by a fellow community member and supporter, Victoria Baptiste (also known as Tori or Dust Dancer). She wrote this right after the Pulling Together Journey in 2008.

    We are thankful for her and Robs they are both very giving people. Also want to thanks their family for allowing them to give up their time as they support us on our journeys, and remain in continous contact with us at home.