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Thursday, 6 September 2018

CanoeKayak Canada Mainstream/Whitestream War Canoe -vs- Indigenous War Canoe

APTN television series “Samaqan: Water Stories”[4], in the episode about the Tribal Canoe Journeys 20th anniversary that was released in 2014. The youngest of the Campbell Brothers can be seen above in blue.

History of the War Canoe Movement

In order to have a social movement, you need to have a social problem. In my course Social Problems (Socio 290) I wrote my final research paper on The Assimilation of Indigenous Canoe/Kayak, within the past 150 years, in the Maritimes [1]. In that paper I wrote about how the Olympic Institute of CanoeKayak Canada, a mainstream/whitestream sport organization’s “war canoe” racing amounts to a) colonization, b) cultural appropriation, and c) cultural assimilation. It does this by calling their racing canoes and the sport - “war canoes” when white people never went to a war in a canoe and the First Nations people of Canada did. These white teams of athletes paddling “war canoes” then a) name their teams after indigenous words or nations, as seen in the Mic Mac Canoe Club and b) wear stereotypical “Indian” head logos on their team outfits when they have no association with the Mi’kmaq First Nation historically. This mainstream sport of “war canoe” amounts to a collective activity and not a social movement. In a Truth and Reconciliation era, Indigenous communities are trying to reconnect with their culture which in many cases was lost due to the long-term effects of the Canadian Indian Residential School system. The war canoe is a large part of the First Nations people of Canada’s history and as they move forward the mainstream “war canoe” racing system of the Institute CanoeKayak Canada is confusing and inappropriate when viewed in a balanced context .

In the book by Suzanne Staggenborg and Howard Ramos - Social Movements (3rd edition), they write “most social movement scholars would agree that social movements ‘are collective efforts, of some duration and organization, using non-institutionalized methods to bring about social change’ (Flacks, 2005:5). ” [2] . An example of a Canadian Social Movement in a Truth and Reconciliation Era can be seen in 2013 by way of an online petition against the Institution of CanoeKayak Canada: Change The Name from "War Canoe" to C-15 [3]. The petition ran for a set amount of time and its intent was for the Institutions to understand the historical context of “war canoe” racing and how it would not be considered acceptable in a Truth and Reconciliation era. The petition opens with “In June of 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper stood in the House of Commons, and on behalf of the Government, apologized to the First Nations people of Canada.” and it reads out the apology and ends with “"Today, we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm, and has no place in our country."”. Yet, we still have assimilation happening in the sport of Canoe and Kayak “war canoe” racing. Where Indigenous youth are encouraged to participate in mainstream “war canoe”. The petition continues with “CanoeKayak Canada and its club members continue to race 'war canoes' amongst the dominant culture. The use of this term (for this type of canoe/race) is insulting and demeaning to most First Nations people. While generations of 'white' people were racing these canoes and calling them 'war canoes' the indigenous people of our country were being segregated, abused, neglected and tortured to rid them of their culture, language and traditions.”

Issues and Ideas of the War Canoe Movement

To understand the issues of the war canoe movement, you only need to look as far as the petition itself. Many indigenous people left comments such as Angie McCabe’s :“This is important to me because I believe this term comes from the first nation people and I believe that if we are going to use this term, the canoe should be filled with first nations people.”[3].

 For decades the mainstream culture has attempted, through governmental policies and European attitudes, to assimilate and annieliate the indigenous culture.  First Nations people have been struggling to reclaim many aspects of their culture - the canoe being of immense symbolism and meaning to them.  It is insulting to have a predominantly ‘white’ faction (CanoeKayak Canada) rewrite history and act as if it is solely of importance to themselves.
Max Johnson from Bella Bella, B.C. writes - “that's so unfair for our people. A war canoe is what our ancestors used to travel all over the place. And today we use them for our tribal journeys. This is a slap in the face. they should be called race canoes for sure.”[3].

Like many insightful First Nations people, there is emerging a ‘real understanding’ of how aspects of their own culture have been claimed by the ‘white’ culture - dismissing any significance it may hold for the Indigenous peoples of this country.  The war canoe played a very important historical significance in many of B.C.’s Indigenous  coastal communities.  They had many uses, of which they were occasionally utilized to transport warriors in times of conflict with other tribes.  Their history and their culture is once again, being completely ignored and dismissed by the sport institutions that claim their racing canoe is a ‘war canoe’. 

When Johnson writes about “our tribal journeys”, he is referring to the Annual Tribal Canoe Journeys founded by Cathy and Frank Brown of Bella Bella. In 1986 they paddled a dugout ‘War’ canoe from Bella Bella to the World’s Fair - Expo ‘86 in Vancouver B.C..  [3] The Annual Tribal Canoe Journeys can be considered the first collective activity of First Nations people on the west coast of Canada - participating in the War Canoe movement. In the APTN television series “Samaqan: Water Stories”, the show’s host Severn Cullis - Suzuki says that a “young couple wanted to get involved, they didn’t know that an idea would spark one of the largest cultural revivals to be witnessed on the Pacific Northwest.” [4]. Cathy Brown states that the movement took shape in  1989 for the Washington State Centennial.  “We paddled on the ocean to Seattle with about 7 canoes.  The emotions and the feelings of completing this strenuous, inspirational journey was extremely high.”  Cathy Brown further stated: “we hosted the first Tribal Journeys in 1993 up in Bella Bella.  That's when the canoes paddled from Washington and two from the north came to Bella Bella - that's how we got involved” [4]. Today, over 100 dugout war canoes participate in the current Tribal Canoe Journeys.

The First Nations peoples of the Pacific Northwest, led by the coastal communities of British Columbia, are getting together living their culture, deepening their connections to their culture and to each other.  They are showing the Federal/Provincial Governments that they can survive… and more - they can thrive within their culture.  Thus, when the ‘dominant’ culture say they “race war canoes” and that “it is an integral part of their sporting history” they are mocking and completely eradicating the significance of the ‘war canoe’ to the Indigenous peoples of this country.  It is just one more example of the ‘white’ culture taking over aspects of another culture and calling it their ‘own’.  The sad fact is that most First Nations people do not even recognize this fact and just accept it as ‘truth’.   Assimilation is now complete.

The War Canoe Movement Realities its Confronting

The war canoe social movement is confronting postcolonial realities that have been created since the federation of Canada.  When Frances Trowsse wrote after signing the petition - “I believe it is important to inform Canadians about our 'real' history - not a sanitized version. I believe this petition is a good example of an effort to educate Canada/Canadians and begin speaking with truths.”[3]. She was speaking to the reality that the social movement is confronting. A challenge is to educate the public of  mainstream “war canoe” and to understand the history of why white people raced “war canoes”. A glimpse into that era can be found in The Antique & Classic Boat Society – Toronto, Racing Canoe and Regattas article by Ron Riddell where he writes “In 1882 the first “War Canoe” race was held at Lachine, Quebec. These open canoes came in different lengths - 20’, 30’, and 35’. Originally they were built by the Ontario Canoe Company as freight canoes to be used for exploration and surveying. A lighter version was built for the Toronto Canoe Club and was facetiously referred to as a “War Canoe” [5].” If the Cambridge Dictionary says “facetiously” is  “not serious about a serious subject, in an attempt to be funny or to appear clever” [6]. Then it may be considered that the joke at the time was white people never went to war in a canoe and the “Indians” did, but who cares and the name stuck for 100+ years. What seems so obvious at the time, would not be acceptable today. Yet, the Institution of CanoeKayak Canada prides its history and “it is the focal point of the club system” for the Institution [7]. Ridell writes ““In 1899 ACA held their first War Canoe races at Hay Island, St Lawrence River; all the canoes were Canadian. Also that summer, the Britannia Club of Ottawa promoted a War Canoe league that became the Canadian Canoe Association (CCA). [7]” The Canadian Canoe Association has been renamed CanoeKayak Canada, Incorporated in 1900.”[8].

The war canoe social movement is not limited to an online petition, there were many activities by the group to challenge the Institution and their practices.  Ridell writes “The Golden Years of Canadian canoe sport happened from 1919 to 1939 when membership and spectator popularity expanded.[7]” Post World War 2, canoe racing declined for many reasons, and  now that we are in the Truth and Reconciliation Era, the Institutions need to strongly consider the “facetiousness” in the naming of their sport and the impact it is having on Indigenous people of Canada who are trying to reconnect with their culture.

The activities of the group

1. Social Media - Ultimately the war canoe social movement gains momentum via social media by creating its own audience of followers [9]. The Institutions were aware of the numerous action to bring these issues to their attention. They would collectively block the social media accounts that were advocating the message. Sending a” we don’t care” message to the movement. In addition, one of the ex-presidents of the Institutions felt so compelled by the movement’s message via social media, he sent a series of statements/questions [11] to the group in regards to the mainstreams use of “war canoe”.

2. Video Responses - The movement would respond in the form of videos. In the same APTN television series “Samaqan: Water Stories”[4], in the episode about the Tribal Canoe Journeys 20th anniversary that was released in 2014. During its filming in 2012, the Campbell brothers would be introduced in the segment. They were the founder’s Cathy and Frank Browns orphaned nephews aged 12 (twins) and 15 at the time. Their mother had just passed away and on the episode you can see their grandmother speaking to the importance of the Tribal Canoe journeys to Cathy and Frank Brown inside the Cowichan Tribes dinner hall. Their grandma says to Cathy and Frank Brown - “they just lost their mother and Frank you couldn’t have picked a better time to ask my grandson’s to go on this journey.”[4] She would continue to say “when you're crossing that sound there, you think of mother, every paddle that you pull,  think of all the things  that your mother said to you. Wanted to be a good boy, to walk the right road”[4]. Shortly after the filming of this episode, the Campbell brothers would become part of the Institution  CanoeKayak Canada’s racing system as they prepared to go to the North American Indigenous Games Canoe Championships. Their goal was to win a gold medal for their mother and they would dedicated the next two years to that dream.

At the time (2012-13), the Campbell brothers were learning about the “Indian” Residential School from their grandmother (who was a survivor) and she would advocate to them as they were the 7th generation “offspring” of the school system. She encouraged the boys to speak out against Institutions in regards to their culture and how Indigenous youth were being treated by the Mainstream Institutions at the time in the sport of canoe and kayak [10]. It was at this time, that the Campbell brothers would record a video called The War Canoe Talking Circle [11], where they sat around a fire answering the questions asked by the ex-president of the Institution. It was unscripted, candid and accurate, however it was not received well by the current administration of the Institution.

The Campbell brothers would find out the hard way that their voice had consequences if they spoke out in regards to their culture.  They would find out at the upcoming 2013 BC provincial canoe championships at Seabird Island. This event was also a qualifier for the 2014 North American Indigenous Canoe Championships.  The brothers had just won all their races in both the canoe and kayak events and  became the Provincial Canoe and Kayak Champions for their age categories. During the medal ceremony, the Executive Director of the mainstream/whitestream Institution CanoeKayak BC, (the provincial partner of the federal institution CanoeKayak Canada) would tell a crowded hall of First Nations people that the qualifications for going to the NAIG Canoe Championships would not just be ‘results’ based - but would also be based on their idea of  “good behaviour” [12].  Despite the fact that the Institutions had already put out a technical package that explained the results - based qualifying process.  This additional method of qualifying was aimed specifically at the Campbell brothers for their outspoken beliefs [13].  They felt the Executive Director was speaking directly to them, as did some First Nations Elders in the room. With one elder Dorothy Sheppard, a Indian Residential School Survivor saying “that’s how they talked to us in residential school” [14]. She would explain that those with behavioural problems would be punished if they spoke out about their culture such as these brothers had done.

In the end, the Campbell brothers would be targeted by the Institutions seeking any reason to exclude them from the 2014 NAIG Canoe Championships.  This conveniently came in the form of their grandfather’s funeral. On the day of their grandfather’s funeral there was a “mandatory” training camp. These provincial champions were not able to attend, the Institution ruled that therefore they could not attend the NAIG canoe championships despite their spots remaining empty at the event. They were being punished once again by the Institution for adhering to their cultural protocol.
When the Institution decided to ban the Campbell brothers from the NAIG canoe championships, they were instilling their values. In the academic paper ‘‘A Rink at this School is Almost as Essential as a Classroom’’: Hockey and Discipline at Pelican Lake Indian Residential School, 1945–1951 BY BRADEN TE HIWI AND JANICE FORSYTH  [15] - “The residential school system was founded on the assumption that Western-European ways of living and knowing were superior to Indigenous lifestyles, and that in order for colonization to work, Indigenous peoples’ attachment to their land and culture had to be broken down and replaced with European values, beliefs, and practices.”[15] This speaks to values between sport and “indian” residential school systems. Forsyth writes ““There was little to no room for self-expression in these exercises. The students were required to move in unison as the instructor called out the appropriate commands. While military drill was reserved for the boys, both boys and girls were required to engage in calisthenics and gymnastics.18”[15]. The similarities between the values in sport at the “indian” residential school can be seen in this example when the Campbell brothers spoke about their war canoe culture in an attempt to educate the mainstream sport Institutions [11]. Forsyth writes ““Muscular Christianity played a central role in their missions.24 Muscular Christianity was a British concept that focused on the development of good Christians through sport and games by instilling character traits such as courage, toughness, self-reliance, and sportsmanship in athletes.25”. These characteristic values can be seen in the Institutions website where they write that mainstream “war canoe” racing is “"A timeless demonstration of power and teamwork"” [7]. When Forsyth writes “The development offered by the ideals of Muscular Christianity in sports and games were, in many ways, different from, but also complementary to, the rigid focus on strict discipline and obedience that characterized physical education prior to World War II. Set within a Canadian context, and specifically the residential school system, Muscular Christianity, with its notions of team spirit and cooperation, fair and ethical play, striving to do one’s best, and always accepting the decisions handed out by the coach and referee were as much about cultural development and fitting into Canadian society as it was about fostering submissive obedience.” [15] It would appear that the ideology of Muscular Christianity can be seen in the mainstream sport of “war canoe” racing. To add to the challenges of the Campbell brothers, the Institutions Executive Director was in direct contact with their school principal and that school principal would use and leverage the NAIG Canoe Championships as a tool of good behaviour [7]. Any time the brothers had an issue in school, they would be directly challenged by the principal  on whether they will be able to attend the competition.

When Staggenborg and Howard Ramos - Social Movements (3rd edition), write “according to Tilly, social movements - as they developed in the West after 1750 - came to consist of sustained campaigns that made collective claims aimed at authorities. They typically created special-purpose associations or coalitions and engaged in tactics such as demonstrations, petition drives, public statements, and meetings” [2].  The activities of the group did not just end with a a) online petition, b) social media post and c) video responses towards the Institutions. But further attempts to bring these social problems to the Institutions attention included a) Ontario Human Rights Complaint, b) Registered Federal Lobbying for 12-months, c) APTN Investigates television interviews, and d) a newspaper article in The Hill Times, Ottawa, a political newspaper.

Do the Internet and the World Wide Web provide a viable alternative to the mainstream media?

Yes it does, for example, social media accounts like the war canoe social movement Twitter have close to 10,000 followers [9]. At first the Institutions will ignore you, then they will play the victims by dismissing the movement to their peers and ultimately the movement finds its own voice and audience to speak to. Unfortunately the Institution carries on their business as usual and the Internet has provided a channel to communicate directly to educate the public of the war canoe social movements with its audience. In addition to the use of social media, social movements such as this one have used online petitions and video responses in an attempt to gain the Institutions attention on the subject with hopes of change.

In what ways does the WWW, as an alternative information source, challenge the domination of corporate media and provide space for a more democratic definition of right and wrong?
Since the Institution has the power to get media spots such as CBC news articles and different television spots to promote their ideology as seen when Nina Cofu wrote the article “New $25K war canoe gives Banook paddlers edge in 'very Canadian' sport” about the mainstream war canoe and further tweeted “I had no idea war canoe racing (C-15) only happens in Canada! #UniquelyCanadian, #CanuckSports” [17] yet fails to mention any connection to the Indigenous people of Canada, she is reinforcing that colonia ideology. Social Media has allowed the movement to challenge the writers/producers directly. In the past, movements had difficulty in mass communications as the technologies were simply not there (pre-1990’s). Today with social media and the Internet, social movements such as seen in this research essay have the ability to voice their opinion directly to their opponents.

Are there particular challenges that social movement organizers face when using the WWW as an alternative?

In this social movement, the Internet is really the only way for the social movement to move forward. Because of the large geographical landscape of Canada. It's not feasible for a group of First Nations people on the West Coast of Canada who may paddle war canoes to travel to Ottawa where the Sport Institutions offices are located to protest in person. In addition the Institutions have shown no will to change over the decades of bringing this to their attention.

If the WWW does have potential, what are some things that could undermine that potential and weaken the impact?

As powerful as the Internet has been in getting attention for this social movement. The institutions also have access to the same technology and with a larger budget and technical support they can simply out do the movement with their own brand power. For example in my previous assignment, I wrote about war canoe racing in Canada. When Corfu wrote, “New $25K war canoe gives Banook paddlers edge in 'very Canadian' sport” she writes about the mainstream/whitestream war canoe racing. This Institutional power to get CBC to write articles from their perspective allows them to push their ideology over the historical accuracies of the Indigenous movement of reconnecting with their culture.

The Institution is able to get their “war canoe” canoe sport in the Canada Summer Games as seen in 2013 Canada Summer Games where the Institution can get a TV spot about their version of mainstream War Canoe racing. Hugues Fournel, an Olympic Kayaker said “Every kid, every club, if you’re in a canoe club somewhere in Canada, you’re for sure going to do War Canoe.” [18] The reporter says, that the mainstream/whitestream “war canoe” “is considered the cadillac of canoes, that Fournel and Ontario’s Taylor Potts, a gold medal winner here as a stepping stone at the club level for their success.”[18] Fournel further says “Everybody's screaming and you feel like you are in a war and thats why its called war canoe and it's one of the oldest, oldest races we do in Canada”[18]. Like the writer in The End of Homework states ““this makes childhood the best time to indoctrinate a population. Children are innocent and naive by nature, and have minimal defenses against the nefarious intent of others.”[19]. Essentially generations of Canadians have grown up believing that mainstream war canoe racing is a) stepping stone to success and b) that its named “war canoe” because it feels like you are in a “war”. Again, there is no academic data suggesting that “war canoe” is a stepping stone to success and white people didn’t go to war in a canoe. Yet, First Nations peoples of Canada did.

Despite the war canoe movement to educate the Institution, CanoeKayak Canada would create a video with their corporate sponsor Bear Mountain Boats, Sprint Racing: History, where the commentator says: “This war canoe is a sprint derivative of the classic First Nations boats that you might see on the west coast. They are longer than the traditional birch bark canoes seen in First Nations communities.”[20]. Historically this is incorrect as seen in the writings of by Ron Riddell [5].

Movement's use of the Internet and the WWW. 

The movements use of the Internet has been large. Particularly in social media.  The movement can show a different perspective than the mainstream message and further can challenge that message.
What are they doing on the Internet?
Over the years, the Internet has been the channel to communicate the message. Today, academic research on this movement is posted.

What strategies are they using? 

At this point it's no longer an organized movement and therefore the Institutions have won their battle.  They had far superior resources, time, and capabilities to continue the fight.   Until another wave in a different era comes along and picks up the agenda. There really aren’t any strategies moving forward.

What difficulties are they having?

The institutions don't care, they patronize the First Nations and this case example shows the Institutions carelessness of their actions.  The Institution is so big, so entrenched in their belief system of  ‘assimilation’ being “the right way to do things” they are not even aware of the negative, long-reaching impact of their policies on the people they believe they serve.


In January 2017, Dr. Janice Forsyth wrote a paper called “What does reconciliation mean for Aboriginal sport development in Canada? A discussion.” [21]  I will speak further to this later.
In conclusion, consider  the “Windspeaker War Canoe Meet Olympics” (2003) [22], an article about a Coast Salish First Nations person (Derrick George) who dreams of bringing his indigenous stream sport of war canoe racing to the Olympics. In that article the institution (John Edwards, Domestic Director: CanoeKayak Canada) says it knows nothing of the initiative,  dismissing the Indigenous person: “Edwards said George's desire to have war canoe racing included in the Olympics sooner rather than later stands "Not even a ghost of a chance."[22]”.  The Windspeaker writes that “George was hoping the sport could make it into the Olympics by 2008. "If not 2008, then 2012."[22]”. We know today that Edwards and the institution took their own version of the mainstream “War Canoe” to the 2012 London Olympics to showcase their own version of the “war canoe” as seen in the Globe and Mail - Young Nova Scotia athletes take war canoe to London Olympics  [23]. At the Olympics, a short demonstration was made, where canoes from all over the world were paddled for the audience and in that moment in time, the Institution decided it would be best to demonstrate the mainstream “war canoe” and neglect the Indigenous war canoe.

Consider that the  Domestic Director, John Edwards, refers to his version of the “war canoe” as the most Canadian boat [18].  Consider that the Institution will put it’s own interests first, as seen in the War Canoe Meets Olympics [22]. Consider the war canoe movement which targets the Institutions - not only by petition [3] and a series of video responses [11], it also included  a) Ontario Human Rights Complaint, b) Registered Federal Lobbying, c) APTN Investigates television interviews, and d) a newspaper article in ‘The Hill, Ottawa’, a political newspaper. Despite the support of many Indigenous peoples and their views on the The Institution’s ignorance on the topic - the Institution would continue to ignore the plight of the First Nation.  In fact they would actually ramp up their promotion of their own mainstream “war canoe” at the same time as they profess to advocate for the First Nations inclusion.  For example after the 2014 North American Indigenous Games was over, the Institutions website would no longer have an “Aboriginal Paddling Initiative”. Yet, they would create an extensive promotion of their mainstream “war canoe” racing instead [7]. In addition, I outlined in this research essay that the Institution had newspaper articles [17], television media spots [18] and educational materials [20] developed to promote their message to drown out the Indigenous one. One can conclude the Institution is not only Ignorant, but they simply don’t care.

Therefore, in attempt to answer Dr. Forsyth’s question  “What does reconciliation mean for Aboriginal sport development in Canada? A discussion. [21]”. I would say how can you Reconcile, when the Institutions refuses to understand the Truth?


The Assimilation of Indigenous Canoe/Kayak, within the past 150 years, in the Maritimes. -
Suzanne Staggenborg and Howard Ramos - Social Movements (3rd edition)
CanoeKayak Canada: Change The Name from "War Canoe" to C-15 -
APTN Water Stories
The Antique & Classic Boat Society – Toronto, Racing Canoe and Regattas by Ron Riddell -
Cambridge English Dictonary -
CanoeKayak Canada “War Canoe” -
Canadian Canoe Association -
War Canoe Social Media -
Interviews with Amelia Campbell and the Campbell Brothers
War Canoe Talking Circle -
Seabird Island Medal Presentation
2013 BC Aboriginal Provincial Canoe Championships - Post Award Ceremonies Interviews with Campbell Brothers
 Dorothy Sheppard Interview
“A Rink at this School is Almost as Essential as a Classroom”: Hockey and Discipline at Pelican Lake Indian Residential School, 1945–1951 Braden Te Hiwi, Janice Forsyth
Campbell Brothers Video Interviews leading up to the 2014 North American Indigenous Games
New $25K war canoe gives Banook paddlers edge in 'very Canadian' sport -
2013 Summer Games War Canoe TV spot -
The End of Homework - Etta Kralovec and John Buell
Bear Mountain War Canoe Video -
What does reconciliation mean for Aboriginal sport development in Canada? A discussion by Janice Forsyth, January 12, 2017
Windspeaker - Olympics meet war canoe racing -
Globe and Mail - Young Nova Scotia athletes take war canoe to London Olympics -

Indoctrination (Examples/Purposes): The Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, CanoeKayak Canada and Right To Play.

Aboriginal War Canoe Race Victoria BC by Bottega Creative

I will summarize the book ‘Rocket Scientist Guide to Money and the Economy’ by Michael Sharp, by quoting, “ ... in the end “it's always about the money.” [1]  I will use the book ‘Accounting for Genocide’, to show how the Federal Government of Canada (and the Partners they fund) use accounting as a tool in the cultural genocide of the Indigenous people of Canada - but through the lens of sport. In the book, Accounting for Genocide by Neu and Therrien it reads “The conquest of the New World - The Americas in general and Canada in particular - could not be perceived by the conquerors as successful without the cultural genocide of the conquered peoples. Aboriginal cultures represented to the European everything “progress” and “civilization “ were trying to leave behind.”. To do this, I will give three examples of Indoctrination. The oxford dictionary says that Indoctrination is “the process of teaching a person or group to accept a set of beliefs uncritically.” [42]  These examples and purpose of Indoctrination include:

The Greater Victoria Harbour Authority 

An easy way to understand Indoctrination is to look at the sport of Canoe and Kayak within Canada. I will use the example of where you have a “Double Helix” sport system that has a) mainstream/whitestream and a separate b)  Indigenous stream participation. [6] Within the sport of Canoe and Kayak, we have war canoe racing in which both streams participate. In the “uniquely Canadian” sport of war canoe racing [7], you have two streams of people based on ethnicity that both think war canoe racing is what their culture is based on  - looking at photos from 100+ years ago. An example of this can be seen in two videos, 1) Bear Mountain War Canoe video [8] where it focuses on mainstream war canoe and 2) a Global TV news segment [9] where it focuses on Indigenous war canoe.

1) Bear Mountain War Canoe video
In the Bear Mountain War Canoe video the mainstream host says “this is our baby, this is Canada’s boat right here, the c-15, we love it, it's something we hold dear to ourselves. In fact if you go to the Carleton Place Canoe Club, which started in 1890, you’ll see some pictures from back then, in the 1900’s and that was their big boat of choice back then”. To which his co-host replies “Yep, the war canoe has a long and cherished history in Canada”. [8]

2) Global TV News video 
In the Global TV news segment where the indigenous stream is trying to revive the sport of war canoe racing (after an absence of it for the past 100 years) in the inner harbour of Victoria, British Columbia. In this video, the journalist ask the Chief of the Esquimalt First Nations “How important is today? First time in a 100 years?” to which the Chief Andy Tomas says “Yes, it's a pretty historic occasion today for our canoe racing. We use to come here and race together and share a meal. Keep that connection to... , there’s pictures that canoes raced here 100 years ago. The Gorge waterways. ”. [9]

In both cases, it appears both streams feel, by looking at photos of their ancestors of 100 years ago, it is good enough to believe that is what  their people did in the past  and that is what we will do today. That is fine as cultures evolve every day, but what is alarming here is that both streams are not exactly sure how their culture came to be in those photos and what those races represented at the time.  Both videos reference the races as factual evidence of their historical significance.  Are they not entitled to understand the truth and the context of those photos?  Then should they still want to participate, they are doing so with full understanding and choice.  However,  to let a group  of people pretend it is their culture (when it was not) and to continue naively thinking so, is unfair.  As a result of not knowing the origins of war canoe racing, Indigenous people today believe that they have revived their culture - post legacy of the Canadian Indian Residential School System. An example of this can be seen in Check TV news segment about the revival of the indigenous war canoe racing in the Inner Harbour,  Florence Dick, Songhees First Nation “It's one of the things that we kept alive, realize how important this is” as she cries on TV about it. [10]

Both sports proceed without ever questioning the context of the photos they are looking at within the time period they were taken.  For example, at the 100 year War Canoe race in the Inner Harbour of Victoria (2015), I had positioned myself with the news camera crews and emulated a reporter to ask questions to the Chief of Esquimalt First Nations. I would get my chance and I asked “When you speak historically of these photos of 100 years ago, 150 years ago, who put on those races?”. Chief Tomas says “I don’t know, I think we’re still putting them on anyways.”.[11] I would further ask him “Do you know what those races represented 100 years ago?” to which he replied “They were just competing races, We are just continuing those races.” [11] His answers speak to a lack of awareness of how his ancestors started war canoe racing in the inner harbour, and the context of the photos we were looking at. The same can be said of the mainstream host of the Bear Mountain video where the photos on the wall at the canoe club symbolized a “prestigious sport”.[8] The reality is: war canoe racing was invented by the Royal Navy at that time.[12] It was an activity/sport for the crew whenever they came into port, during colonial times. During Dominion Day[13] celebrations they got the “indians” to race the white man's version of a war canoe for their entertainment. Dominion Day which is now known as Canada Day [14], was a celebration that promoted Colonialism and the white dominance of the Indigenous race. This example speaks to how white people and indigenous people in the sport of war canoe racing are so indoctrinated into their beliefs, that they don’t even question the origins of their sport, nor the ‘intentions or purpose’ at the time when it was developed.

The current purpose can be seen when Ian Robertson, Greater Victoria Harbour Authority says in the television spot that “part of our responsibility is to celebrate, to tell the story of the history the First Nations have in the inner harbour of Victoria.”[9] . “We think its got the potential to become another signature event. I think with time and promotion, we could make this another signature event like Swiftsure[15]”  With that statement alone, perspectives get muddled.  The Indigenous people think they are reconnecting with their culture, while the Harbour Authority feels they are promoting a cultural - tourism event, comparing it to a well known and established sailing race called the Swiftsure.  By assisting the First Nations members reconnect with their culture of war canoe racing, the Dominant Culture can feel they are helping. In fact, they are promoting colonialism and reenacting events that were considered demeaning to the First Nations of that time period. As an interesting anecdote regarding this Indigenous War Canoe Demonstration Race in the inner harbour that day -  my “insiders” (who are First Nations Coast Salish people) told me they were being excluded from racing in this historical event. They indicated  only certain families, otherwise known as the “Power Families” were invited to participate in the race. I wrote about this phenomena in a previous assignment under ‘Dual Colonialism’[16].  In this situation, the authorities picked only those they wanted to participate in the race to attend (friends and family members of the ‘power families’), while others in their tribe watched.  A select group did not participate in their “culture” that day, this group I often refer to as the “have-nots”. With that insiders knowledge pre-race, I was able to ask the Chief during the television interview process - “How much were teams paid to participate today? ”[11]  to which Chief Tomas responds “I have no idea. [11]”. To which I reply “I heard $500 and $20 per paddler to come participate in the dance. Does that sound about right?[11]” to which Chief Tomas says “It could be, Ya, it probably is, I think it's an opportunity for us to be able to pick up and be like everybody else and take something away from here.[11]”. Consider that the Victoria Harbour Authority paid the First Nations to put on the war canoe race and further paid for a promotional advertising video to be professionally filmed and edited [17]. You can start to see a pattern that it has little to do with culture and more to do with dollars and Tourism. Consider further : that white people invented the format of “indian” war canoe racing in the inner harbour of Victoria for their Colonial entertainment to celebrate Dominion Day. One has to compare these behaviours and actions to the past of the World Fair days, where the white population had human zoos [18].  They put Indigenous people, from all over the world, including Canada on display for their entertainment once again. In my opinion, the events in current day speak more of  “history repeating itself” than they do about cultural revitalization. These events are being engineered by white institutions to propagate their ideologies of what they think and want Indigenous history to be. I refer to this as white people trying to rewrite history to be more palatable today (the master narrative).  To gain a clear understanding of this example is to question the above behaviours, by both parties, in a Truth and Reconciliation era [19].

CanoeKayak Canada 

First Nations people 100 years ago thought the white people had their best interest at heart as seen in the war canoe example above. We know today, post Canadian Indian residential school [20], that was not the case. So do white people have the best interest of First Nations now that we are in the TRC era and have grown in 100 years? For another example, we need to look at the Institution of CanoeKayak Canada, incorporated in 1900 (as the Canadian Canoe Association) and its the governing body in the sport of war canoe racing [21].

When I lived full time on a west coast First Nation reserve for a period of 18-months (2011-2012), I witnessed first hand, a group of Indigenous people who felt they a) were still being assimilated by the Federal government and b) that the government was still passively participating in cultural genocide. This group has never signed a treaty with the government and live in what is known as ‘3rd World Canada’ poverty [22]. Their perspective was unique and real, yet because they were ‘out of sight’, they were also ‘out of mind’. In the book: The Rocket Scientists’ Guide to Money and the Economy, it reads “Poverty is abusive to our potential just as physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual violence are. There is no point in denying this is fact and so there is no point in believing the religious indoctrination designed to get us to view adversity in a positive light. Instead, we should accept the truth and work to fix the problem.”[1]. That is exactly what I and the group I was working with had in mind at the time, the Indigenous community (rez) wanted a  competitive canoe and kayak racing program. I was the band Recreation Coordinator at the time with a decade of experience running different sport organizations (board of directors) and also managing teams in competitive sports.  Our goal was to get the group to the North American Indigenous Games Canoe Championships [23] . To do this, we would start a canoe club called the Nitinaht Lake Paddle Club [24] . The first time I attended a coaching course sanctioned by the Institution (2012) I was greeted by one of the instructors, a white person wearing a t-shirt with a typical “Indian” head logo on it  reading, ‘Mississauga Canoe Club’ [25] . At the time, I had no idea this was a predominantly white club in Toronto. I honestly thought it was an First Nations canoe team. The same instructor encouraged the rez kids to take on the sport of mainstream war canoe. In addition the Institution had posters of mainstream war canoe on display on their walls. I was extremely confused, as this all spoke to assimilation of First Nations culture.  Within these canoe clubs pictured with their ‘indian names’; their ‘indian logos’, there was actually no ‘indian’ involvement of any kind.  I was there to represent a barrier free entry for Indigenous youth to the sport, I don’t think I realized at the time what I was getting involved with.  I just saw that this Institution promoted assimilation through sport, which the people I represented were against.

In the book the Rocket Scientists’ Guide to Money and the Economy, it reads “Indoctrination is complex, but it basically involves teaching you to think about the world in a way that encourages you to see the System and what it does as a good thing. When you are indoctrinated, even the worst atrocities perpetrated on humanity by the family become acceptable.” [1] .

When somebody is indoctrinated into a belief system that benefits the Institution they are unable to use critical insight into the impact on themselves and their community. Because the only information given to them is “we are doing a wonderful job for you”. And because they are so use to paternalism from the dominant culture -  it just becomes more of the same.  In the book, Accounting for Genocide by Neu and Therrien it reads “As we shall see later, the poetry of Ottawa writer and Indian Department official Duncan Campbell Scott is tinged with the shadowy realms of these hallucinatory perceptions. The question of how to treat the ‘“creatures” was basic to the conquering nations. Was war against them justified? Could they be compelled to serve the King?” [2] .

In the sport of Canoe and Kayak, we have a set of beliefs of how things came to be historically, which are never questioned. The institution CanoeKayak Canada  is based on colonial ideologies, powers and colonization. Their sport derives from the British Navy of the early 1800 - 1900’s.  In 1866, their King became president (known as a Commodore) of the “first canoe club” and “canoe race” in the world, known as the Royal Canoe Club [26] .  In effect, this creates a long history of European/white culture and attitude in what should have been - the Indigenous sport of canoe racing.   The organization/sport of Canoe/ Kayak in Canada has historically adapted what was originally a purview of  the Indigenous people.  It is seen in the examples of Canada demonstrating canoe racing (based on birchbark canoes) in the 1924 Olympics in Paris; or of the mainstream/whitestream canoe clubs in Canada racing “war canoes” when white people never went to a war in a canoe. Mainstream “war canoe” was named such as a derogatory ‘joke’ that has been forgotten in time [27]. Over the past 100 years, Canada has a long history of canoe clubs in Canada, that a)  take “indian” head logos, b) take “indian” words and c) declare “war canoe” as their mainstream sport [28]. Yet, how many First Nations, have these same clubs had in their canoe clubs over the last century?

When you consider the history of white canoe clubs in Canada and you compare it to the book the Rocket Scientists’ Guide to Money and the Economy, when it reads “While few (if any) would depict native North Americans as savages today, ideological myths that justify colonial violence are still perpetuated. In particular, the myth that all native tribes were nomadic is still prominent in the American K-12 curriculum. However, it is not true. In fact, many native tribes were settled farmers when the Europeans came to take their land. The problem for the Family is, the reality of settled agriculture is hard to reconcile with colonial pillage of Native lands. The reality is, European colonist came to North America, bumped the Native populations off their land, and built their own towns and farms on this same land.  By teaching that natives were nomadic, governments et. al, justified colonial pillage by making it look like the natives didn't really own or properly utilize their land to begin with!. By telling themselves and their children that natives were all nomadic, the white colonizers created a situation where it was not considered: an economic, social and even moral crime not to throw natives on reserves, force march them from their homes, and enclose (steal) their lands for white-man use. Viewing colonial violence as a positive, even moral, thing is the outcome of indoctrination”. [1]

When we think of colonialism, we often tie it to land, but sport and water is not to be excluded as it can be colonized and has in the sport of canoe and kayak. The same theory can be applied in sport.  We have a documented history of the Mohawks racing birch bark canoes, then we have the founder of the first canoe club - the Royal Canoe Club - come to Canada and view a passing of a birch bark canoe. Then Canada introduces the birch bark canoe adaptation as an Olympic sport at the 1924 Paris games [29] . Essentially taking a piece of property, an ideology tied to a culture, and make it their own. Building on the nomadic experience, the Institution will essentially say we tried for many years to engage the Indigenous population in canoe racing, they never took to it. Whereas, in my research, they did indeed have their own Olympic dreams in the sport.  However, participation would have been much greater than that of the mainstream - if given a fair opportunity, and a lifting of the economic barriers to participation.  They (the Institutions) do say “now we have equal participation”, - to which I reply, “if you can get there”.

During the era Canada demonstrated Canoe Racing to the Olympics, the book the Rocket Scientists’ Guide to Money and the Economy, reads “According to Pewewardy, “Indian children come home in tears - as they have for centuries - when school children or playmates shour: “Savages, Savages” to them. It should be noted here that all the ideological and stereotypical representations of colonized populations are false. Native Americans had a sophisticated culture and were very spiritual in their own way. Nevertheless, when European colonists came and took their land, abused their children, and in some cases murdered them, ideology helped justify the blows. Rape, murder, and theft is made acceptable by portraying the natives as heathen, savage, nomadic, primitives. This is indoctrination. Indoctrination makes us think about the world and the events in it in a way favorable to the Family.”[1]   In the’ old’ days we called them savages. Today, the mainstream Institution of CanoeKayak wear indian head logos  and race war canoes - as if there is nothing wrong with it. The break down of one's culture, regardless of the era, amounts to cultural genocide and assimilation still to this day. [28]

In 2012, the federal government gave the Institution $385,000.00 to run an “Aboriginal Paddling Initiative” during a time my group and I were active [30].  In fact, the institute would not even a) hire a dedicated person to the run the program, b) build a website for the program and c) or produce any marketing materials. It was virtually non-existent.  An example of their interest in this ‘initiative’  -when I called and emailed the Domestic Director for a year between 2011-2012, to inquire about the Aboriginal Paddling Initiative, they never responded . Despite numerous inquiries there was never a response. I believe they didn't take the indigenous community seriously and had little understanding/knowledge of the barriers these peoples faced.  Their attitude appeared to indicate that if we could “be like them, then maybe they would help us.”. Until then, they just kept the money with no accountability. When I filed a Freedom of Information request from the Federal Government on how the Institution used that money, it was redacted [31]. All you could see was the government gave the Institute the money, but then every transaction was blacked out and unable to read.  In a Truth and Reconciliation era  the Government wishes to appear apologetic and supportive of First Nations reclaiming their culture, heritage and healthy lifestyles. As such, they grant money to white institutions to provide a service. The shortfall is that the government doesn’t appear to care if such services is ever provided - there is no accountability.  Since  there is no accountability, there is no improvement or growth in program development,  which leads to no equality in reality . There are many barriers and the Institutions don't address these barriers to allow the First nations youth to become competitive on an equal basis. They don't have the generations of clubs, equipment,  training and financial support in order to get their expert coaching, with which to become equal with established clubs.

Right to Play 

This attitude dates back a century and is still prevalent today, in my research paper called CanoeKayak Canada Mainstream/Whitestream War Canoe -vs- Indigenous War Canoe: A Canadian Social Movement in a Truth and Reconciliation Era (socio288) [32]. I wrote “Like the writer in ‘The End of Homework’ states ““this makes childhood the best time to indoctrinate a population. Children are innocent and naive by nature, and have minimal defenses against the nefarious intent of others.”[33]. Essentially generations of Canadians have grown up believing that mainstream war canoe racing is a) stepping stone to success and b) that its named “war canoe” because it feels like you are in a “war” [34]. Again, there is no academic data suggesting that “war canoe” is a stepping stone to success and white people didn’t go to war in a canoe. Yet, First Nations peoples of Canada did. ”.

One of those indoctrinated children is now an adult, Adam van Koeverden, an Olympic gold medal winner in the sport of canoe and kayak [35] . He has represented Canada via the Institution CanoeKayak Canada. When one reads Adam van Koeverden in the Peterborough Examiner article “Olympic champion helps launch Canoe-Kayak Club”[36]   he states “"It's important to recognize a canoe club will always give back more to a community than it will take away.”[36]   Adam’s comments speak to the Institution’s ability to continue to accumulate assets that those in power can control. The more assets you have, the more power you have, furthering the belief that “they are doing good”. The Indoctrination process supported through promotional news stories  solidifies their belief in ‘how special they are’  “ Look at all the good work we do, you should donate money to us.”  I was first introduced to the Right to Play organization, when Olympic gold medal paddler Adam van Koeverden launched “JOIN ME IN CREATING CHANGE” by “Promoting Life-skills in Aboriginal Youth.”[37]  movement for the Aboriginal kids of Canada via the Right to Play Canada organization (2016) with a goal to “raise $100,000.00 in a weekend”. CBC News would write an article “Adam van Koeverden steps up with hefty donation to Right To Play ” [38].

In 2018, the Institute of ‘Right to Play’ was vying for funding from the federal government to deliver Indigenous youth programs to those living on Reserves across Canada. A modern day example in a Truth and Reconciliation era, can be seen in the tweet by  Sport Canada’s Minister Kirsty Duncan ;(who is caucasian) when she announced an investment of $47.5 million into the organization Right to Play, over five years and an additional $9.5 million per year ongoing for sport in Indigenous communities. Minister Duncan also states on her Twitter,  "with the model developed by Right to Play, nearly 90% of participants have a more positive attitude toward school & greater sense of identity. This initiative is a proven tool, that is based in communities & directly focused to support Indigenous youth." [39] .

 My experiences, of living full time on a remote west coast, First Nation reserve, shows the Canada’s Aboriginal “Right to Play” and previous initiatives often minimized the competitive aspects of sport and provided a ‘recreational only’ opportunity instead - that instill white values on the “rez”. First Nations youth and adults have grown tired of this approach and are seeking a more professional experience and training, rather than programs such as Right to Play.   For a mainstream  (read:white stream) organization to come into an Indigenous stream of sport to provide tools comes with challenges. The First Nations people of Canada were the only ethnic group who were put into “Indian” residential schools and beaten for practising their language and culture. Therefore it does not mirror other “Indigenous” groups outside of Canada that the Right to Play organizations have supported in various parts of the world previously in an effort to create their “proven tool”. Further, there is no science that the Right to Play is a “proven tool” [39] . When you consider the unique situation of having a “third” world Canada living within a developed Nation also poses particular challenges for the ‘Right to Play’ organization.  Canada is the only country in this situation.

In Darnell’s paper, “Playing with Race: Right to Play and the Production of Whiteness in 'Development through Sport'” - he writes “It is necessary to examine development through sport through its connectedness to historical and contemporary colonialism, not only to problematize any ahistorical and apolitical self-presentation of the development through sport project, but also to account for the discursive framework of racialized knowledge that the development through sport project provides.” [40].

As a result, I am suggesting white people are so indoctrinated in their beliefs, they don’t even realize it and that is when the assimilation process is complete. In the book, ‘Accounting for Genocide’ by Neu and Therrien it reads “The Indigenous peoples of the early days of occupation were, to the occupiers, conceptual Indians - demons and beasts - not real people at all. But it’s demonization was and is not limited to aborigines. Throughout history both Jews and Indians have been presented as frightening: the wild and savage Indian, the wandering stateless Jew.” [2]. Today we treat them as if we need to save them, from the very treatment whites instituted in the first place.

In Darnell’s paper, “Playing with Race: Right to Play and the Production of Whiteness in 'Development through Sport'” - he writes “Subjects of Benevolence and Gratitude as discussed above, Said [63] drew attention to the ability of the authoritative voice to represent the Other in cultural terms, based on the perception of the Others’ inability to do so for themselves. Thus, there is a temptation in a paper such as this to create an authentic or neutral platform from which the subaltern’s true voice can be heard. [64] However, post-colonial studies have recognized the problematic tendency to grant scholarly ‘permission’ for the subaltern to speak from what amounts to a position that is no less subjugated.” [40].

When Minister Duncan tweets “with the model developed by Right to Play, nearly 90% of participants have a more positive attitude toward school & greater sense of identity”[39] it is important to note that we are technically talking about a white organization, with an all white Board of Directors using white Olympians coming in to provide a “greater sense of identity” to “indigenous sport leaders” who will then spread the ideologies to the “tribe”.  Considering the Federal government took away the identity of the Indigenous peoples of Canada through cultural genocide, one has to wonder what is going on here? Adam van Koeverden writes “I've visited programs all over Africa with Right To Play and I'm inspired by what I've seen. I'm further heartened to know that we are working domestically with a similar goal in mind — to improve the lives of children through the power and impact of sport and play in our indigenous communities here in Canada.” [38].

Olympian Adam van Koeverden believes he is “creating change”, which will “improve the lives of children [Indigenous]” [37]. It is clear that Adam van Koeverden is believing everything he is told or sees via the Right to Play, or does it have more to do with brand recognition and resume’ building for the Olympian? Otherwise why not sponsor CanoeKayak Canada’s “Aboriginal Paddling Initiative” as he's an Olympian within that sport. What drew this Olympian to the organization Right to Play is more than likely the same reasons the Federal government has chosen to fund this initiative. It provides an image that they are the do gooders, which they can turn around and sell to get more money.

1st World Meets 3rd World

In the book, Accounting for Genocide by Neu and Therrien it reads “‘Statelessness’ is a bureaucratic definition; the problem of what to do with a stateless people is a problem of modern governance, and consequently, the ‘solution’ is primarily a bureaucratic one, whether it lies in the direct extermination of individuals or in the slow procedural elimination of their life-support systems or with their total cultural assimilation (Hildberg 1985). Thus, the problem of the stateless (read ‘wandering’) Jew is linked thematically and historically to the problem of how to adapt the Indigenous person (read ‘backward savage’ to ‘civilization’”[2].

In the Academic paper by Routledge Taylor and Francis group, written by Simon C. Darnell called “Playing with Race: Right to Play and the Production of Whiteness in 'Development through Sport'” - “‘Development through sport’ organizations use sport, physical activity and play as tools to facilitate social improvement in nations and communities targeted for development. In many cases, these organizations facilitate encounters between sport administrators, volunteers and athletes from North America and Europe with individuals and communities from Africa, South Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. In this sense, the international ‘development through sport’ project [2] – a term used in this essay to describe the movement supporting the use of sport and play as tools to improve the lives of people in ‘developing’ communities“ [40].

Essentially what the Right to Play represents is Power and Class over a ethnic group of people. When the federal government gives millions of taxpayers dollars to deliver indigenous youth programs from a European perspective, it continues to empower a class of people to be in the dominant position. This treats the Indigenous communities as paternalistic with racial traits. In Darnell paper, - he writes “ Right to Play operates within two overlapping, yet distinct discursive frameworks: that of sport and play as universal and integrative social practices, [3] and that of international development as the benevolent deliverance of aid, goods and expertise from the northern, ‘First World’ to the southern, ‘Third World’.”[40].  Right to Play in Canada has the unique challenge of operating within a ‘First World’ Canada which the Federal Government created through various policies and what the United Nations has termed the living conditions of Indigenous people within our boundaries as ‘Third World’.

Right to Play is filled with powerful people who can help deliver the narrative of success that they want you to hear.  In Darnell’s paper, - he writes “As of 2007, Right to Play is headquartered in Toronto, Canada, with subsidiary offices in New York and five European countries. The organization has built its reputation partly through endorsements from a host of high profile international athletes, both amateur and professional”[40]. When one considers the federal government can now use this vehicle of  “change” to push their narrative of assimilation. They can do this through the large amount of funding which allows the organization to engineer any image they want, using whichever Indigenous people they can recruit. Again, a mainstream/whitestream narrative drowning out the message of the Indigenous stream that is trying to reconnect with their culture in a Truth and Reconciliation era.  In Darnell’s paper, - he writes “Such understandings contribute towards the construction of a de-politicized, de-historicized ‘native’ who is seemingly grateful for material means that provide respite from his/her marginalization. The language of gratitude is offered as evidence of the success of volunteer efforts and serves to reconfirm the benevolence of development and the universalism of sport. The White subject position is constructed (both produced and constrained) as generous and benevolent and in opposition to racial Others, recognized as those who are grateful.”[40].


In my conclusion, I agree with Michael Sharp, author of Rocket Scientist Guide to Money and the Economy when he says - “it’s always about the money”[1] and I believe at the end of the day, this has little do with actually delivering sports programs to indigenous youth. In the book, Accounting for Genocide by Neu and Therrien it reads “The end [of genocide] itself is a grand vision of a better, and radically different society. Modern genocide is an element of social engineering, meant to bring out a social order conforming to the design of the perfect society (Bauman 1989:91)” [1].

Greater Victoria Harbour Authority

The “Greater Victoria Harbour Authority is committed to supporting the cultural tradition of war canoe racing by helping to sponsor Island-based teams.”[41]  yet, the Inner Harbour war canoe races never continues as suggested by the Institutions three years later. I suspect, as there were under 100 people that showed up,  the Victoria Inner Harbour could not make money with Tourism Victoria. It was a tourism promotional event as opposed to a cultural revitalization.  In a cultural revitalization they would have continued year after year as more First Nations entered the program. In reality, that event did not continue year after year as was the intent, when launched.

CanoeKayak Canada

In the CanoeKayak Canada press release “Aboriginal Paddling Initiative Supports a Proud Tradition” it reads - “Respecting local culture and traditions is one reason the Initiative is working in British Columbia. Some lower mainland and Island communities race in war canoes that are sleek and elegant dugouts carved by the paddlers themselves and ranging from singles to 11-man in size. (They are not the eastern Peterborough-type cedar strip war canoes.) Seeing the dugouts in action convinced Abbott that “we can’t be shoving the kayak at them. We don’t want to replace their tradition and culture; we want to supplement, not take away. Theirs is another stream of paddling and it provides the kids with another opportunity.” [30] .

Basically they are saying we don't want to teach them kayak and replace their culture of indian war canoe, (but please don't get confused with our Peterborough, otherwise known as mainstream war canoes.) This speaks so much to their ignorance and indoctrination because one is implying the Kayak is not Indigenous, which it is, yet the indian war canoe is not.  Abbott says, do your culture which is not your culture, but rather one we invented and we will actually do your culture of kayak. This is  a mess. Originally when I read it I thought from a legal perspective it was more “we are not going to push kayak” [30] because we a) dont want them in our sport and b) we don't want to commit. Also consider the ignorance here that Abbott is suggesting that if they race kayaks, they will lose their war canoe culture. Yet in the press release, they don’t use a picture of the war canoe, they use a picture of the kayak.

In the same press release “Edwards convinced Sport Canada’s Sport Participation Development Program to provide $385,000 over four years to launch the Initiative.”[30]  This was an initiative to introduce kayak for the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG).  This is a sport the athletes compete in, yet war canoe is not a sport in the NAIG canoe championships. When you consider the facts that the Institution had a) no dedicated staff for the initiative, b) didn’t have a website, c) didn't have any educational material on the initiative and d) that while I was starting an Indigenous paddling club, they would not return one communication request inquiring about the program. When combined with Abbott's comments about how they don't want to focus on kayak (which is an Indigenous invention and the youth were thrilled about), they will support war canoe racing, because that’s their (indigenous stream) culture, when in fact it's not.  This attitude is connected to the Institutions’ long history of colonization and assimilation of the Indigenous peoples of Canada.

Right to Play

For example, the Olympian’s (Adam van Koeverden) plea to help the Indigenous youth is all about raising $100,000.00. Yet two years later, the money has not been raised and has the Olympian van Koeverden has  visited any First Nations reserves to deliver the Right to Play program?.  It appears the only way to “bring change” is for the whites in sport development to take a critical look at their actions at large. Where is there an indigenous team that has the capabilities of competing on the world stage as our ‘dominant’ culture does?  How many of these Right to Play participants actually gain the skills and expertise to compete nationally, internationally or is it just a repeat of a ‘feel good’ program that promises much and delivers little.  What and where is the accountability for providing competitive sport programs?  Or do we just repeat the mantra: “they are just not good enough no matter what we do” as seen in the annals of the NAIG competitions.  These competitions are touted as ‘stepping stones to the Olympics’.....but actually lead nowhere.  In Darnell’s paper,   - he writes “It is within and against this history of race and colonialism that contemporary development interventions, such as those of Right to Play, take place. Recently, development scholars have employed post-colonial theoretical frameworks to investigate the (re)production of race within contemporary development practices, and their findings align with the ‘evolutionary’ racism described by Goldberg. For example, the unequal distribution of resources characteristic of the development context often discursively aligns with the passivity or inferior capabilities of racial Others, and/or the (re)discovery of wealth and privilege as a defining characteristic of Whiteness.”[40]. In the book the Rocket Scientists’ Guide to Money and the Economy, it reads “I’ll simply conclude by saying that indoctrination is a powerful mechanism of prolonging accumulation that works by negating the people’s suffering and turning it into a good thing” [1]. Accumulation can be seen in the powerful Right to Play - by not only getting the money from the Federal government, - but by employing Olympians to go out and plea for more of it, making the case that they will “create change”.

I believe the dominant culture, the ‘white’ people can be so indoctrinated into their beliefs, they don’t even realize how racist or colonial they look. There is no critical thinking allowed, just blindly follow what is being said by those in power and until they can self reflect, there will be no change happening. Just more of the same old, same old.


[1] Rocket Scientist Guide to Money and the Economy - Michael Sharp
[2] Accounting for Genocide - Neu and Therrien
[3] Greater Victoria Harbour Authority -
[4] CanoeKayak Canada -
[5] Right To Play -
[6] Aboriginal Peoples and Sport in Canada - Janice Forsyth and Audrey R. Giles -
[7] CBC News - New $25K war canoe gives Banook paddlers edge in 'very Canadian' sport - Nina Corfu -
[8] Bear Mountain War Canoe video -
[9] Global TV news segment -
[10] Check TV news segment -
[11] Chief Tomas Interview -
[12] Royal Navy -
[13] Dominion Day -
[14] Victoria Day -
[15] Swiftsure International Yacht Race -
[16] Dual Colonialism: Racialized Discourse, Prejudice and Discrimination -
[17] Aboriginal War Canoe Race Victoria BC -
[18] Human Zoo -
[19] Truth and Reconciliation Era -
[20] Canadian Indian residential school system -
[21] Canadian Canoe Association -
[22] 3rd World Canada -
[23] North American Indigenous Games -
[24] Nitinaht Lake Paddle Club -
[25] Mississauga Canoe Club -
[26] Royal Canoe Club -
[27] Racing Canoe and Regattas Ron Riddell -
[28] The Assimilation of Indigenous Canoe/Kayak, within the past 150 years, in the Maritimes. -
[29] 1924 Paris games -
[30] CanoeKayak Canada supports proud tradition -
[31] Freedom of Information request from the Federal Government
[32] CanoeKayak Canada Mainstream/Whitestream War Canoe -vs- Indigenous War Canoe: A Canadian Social Movement in a Truth and Reconciliation Era
[33] The End of Homework
[34] When CanoeKayak Canada uses Propaganda, Structural Advantage and Manufactured Compliance to its Benefit -
[35] Adam van Koeverden -
[36] Olympic champion helps launch Canoe-Kayak Club - The Peterborough Examiner -
[37] Adam van Koeverden Join me in creating change -
[38] CBC News - Adam van Koeverden steps up with hefty donation to Right To Play -
[39] Sport Canada’s Minister Kirsty Duncan Twitter -
[40]  Routledge Taylor and Francis group -  Simon C. Darnell - Playing with Race: Right to Play and the Production of Whiteness in 'Development through Sport
[41] War Canoe Racing -
[42] oxford dictionary -