Come paddle the blue canoe

Posted: Thursday, July 26, 2001

Sealaska's blue canoe will cross Twin Lakes many times this summer.

The South East Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) is giving the community a chance to use the 14-person canoe this summer through a new "Exercising Native Traditions" canoe program.

"The main goal, especially for SEARHC, was to try to get youth doing something active, out of the house," said Katie Day, who coordinates the program. "Something that also revolves around a traditional activity and getting them back into traditional ways and how it used to be used."

The program is directed toward youth and adults who are looking for a unique and fun summer activity, while participating in a healthy physical and cultural tradition of Southeast Alaska.

"We're trying to integrate the canoe with all the other activities for youth," Day said.

So far St. Vincent de Paul, the Boys and Girls Club, Juneau Youth Service, the Johnson Youth Center, and Tlingit and Haida Culture Camp have scheduled time to use the canoe.

Youths from the Alaska Youth Initiative and Johnson Youth Center have been racing with the SEARHC Canoe Team, which placed first in the women's canoe race at Kake's Dog Salmon Days last weekend. The men's team placed fourth.

"The kids that have been racing with us a lot say they're getting stronger and they love it," Day said. "There's also a lot of teamwork. We have to paddle together or the canoe rocks."

Andy Lee first brought residents of the Johnson Youth Center to paddle the canoe.

"Their attitude changes along with their muscles," Lee said. "Their chins are held high, they're accepted back into their communities."

Now, as coordinator of the Tlingit and Haida Culture Camp, Lee is bringing another batch of youths to paddle on Twin Lakes.

"Language and the arts are a very important part of the culture, but very seldom do the urban kids get to do the physical part of the culture," Lee said.

In the traditional lifestyle, strenuous outdoor activities were a regular part of life.

"Survival would have depended on it, because you couldn't have gone out and done fishing and hunting without being in a high level of physical shape," Lee said.

To arrange to use the canoe, call Day at 463-5846.

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