Last year's inaugural War Canoe Races attracted 250 to 300 people

Stz’uminus hosts War Canoe Races this weekend

Paddlers from far and wide are invited to attend SFN's second annual War Canoe Races at Kulleet Bay July 20 and 21.

Paddlers from the Stz’uminus First Nation (SFN) are digging deep in preparation for their second annual War Canoe Races July 20 and 21.

SFN will host the two-day race series — coordinated by Gordon’s Peacock Society (GPS) — on Kulleet Bay with races scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Saturday.

Advance registration will be required for big canoes, GPS founders Adam and Margaret Seymour said, but “for the small canoes, there’s no need to register — you just have to be out on the water when they start the race.”

The Seymours have scheduled races for singles and doubles in the mornings to coincide with the low tide — low tide is set at 9:36 a.m. July 20 and 10:25 a.m. July 21 — in hopes that the small canoes complete their race schedule prior to high tide.

Big dugout and cedar-strip canoes then take to the water to complete each race day.

The Seymours have secured thousands of dollars in prize money through a variety of sponsors, they said. Cash prizes of $20 for first place, $10 for second place and $5 for third will be awarded to individual paddlers competing in Saturday’s races while Sunday paddlers are being offered $30 for first place, $20 for second and $10 for third.

While the prize money currently on offer may seem trivial, the Seymours said they plan to build the festival over the coming years into a high-stakes event rivalling canoe races from half a century ago.

“We were talking with an Elder or two and they were saying that in the 50s, they were getting $10 [per  paddler],” Adam said. “We did the math and equated it and in today’s dollars, it would be about $140 [per person]. Eventually, that will be a goal of ours, to be able to have that amount of prize money for the canoes, and I would love to have as many canoes as we can here. That’s the goal that I strive for.”

Margaret said building a sense of community is of equal importance, adding that this goal led to the introduction of races for both children and families.

“Adam wanted immediate families to come together as one on a canoe, something we’d never, ever seen at any other race,” Margaret said. “So we were trying to be creative and think of something different, wondering what we could do to support many in a fun way and he thought, ‘Let’s try a family race. We have us and our own kids, so let’s see how many more out there have that.’

“But all-in-all, once everyone comes to the race, we’re all family, we’re all one community and that’s what it’s all about. It’s to bring us together just like we do in powwows. In the winter, we have the Longhouse travellers, and in the summertime, we have [events like this] to keep ourselves strong.”

Last year’s inaugural War Canoe Races drew a total of 250 to 300 people, Margaret said, and they hope for bigger turnouts with every passing year. Races are open to anyone hoping to compete, but gate fees of $10 per day or $15 for the weekend apply.

In addition to races, a concession stand will be onsite serving tacos, fries and refreshments for sale, while a number of items will be up for bid via a silent auction.

For more information on the 2013 War Canoe Races or to learn more regarding the origins of the society’s name, contact GPS co-founder Adam Seymour by e-mail at abseymour@hotmail.com.