Generic filters
Exact matches only

SD46 Indigenous Education

Canoe Culture



Through District Indigenous Learning, students and staff are proud to participate in “big canoe” culture that exists on the Sunshine Coast and in First Nations communities in British Columbia.  


Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth in the School District have journeyed in the big canoes in home waters and as grateful guests of generous First Nations communities in many beautiful, unceded lands and waters in BC: communities on rivers, lakes and ocean.  


We regard the canoe as a teacher, as a classroom, and as a companion in learning.  Learners and educators from other school districts on the Lower Mainland and from as far away as Australia have paddled with us and taken away the teachings of the canoe.  Annual consultations with Indigenous Students about their school experiences, called “Nurturing the Learning Spirit”, also take place through canoe outings.


Partners supporting the School District in canoe activities for youth include members of the Gibsons Paddle Club.  We are also grateful for the interest and support of the Royal Canadian Navy, the Coast Guard, the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue, and the RCMP in providing safety protocols and support boats for long journeys with Pulling Together.

The Gibsons Rotary Club has generously supplied three DeLorme InReach two-way satellite communicators to help assure communication with First Responders in case of an emergency.



District Indigenous Learning staff are honoured to be keepers of one canoe, a 31 foot Clipper Canoe Northern Dancer, the s-yéwen s-néxwílh, The Spirit Canoe (spirit within the canoe).   A fibreglass replica of a northern coastal dugout, the canoe was found sitting derelict in an auction yard, neglected, covered with lichen, holes in the hull, and filled with algae.   The canoe was purchased, recovered, brushed with cedar and fir and cedar branches by the Paul family in the traditional way of awakening, repaired back to being seaworthy by Roger LePage, and rededicated to  support youth in their learning and personal growth.  The canoe is honoured to carry the name syéwen snéxwílh, given to the canoe in 2009 by the shíshálh Nation elders. We thank the elders, families and canoe enthusiasts who have supported us in awakening the canoe back to life.  


District Indigenous Learning staff partner with other canoe pullers on the Sunshine Coast in keeping another Northern Dancer with important history.   The Skookum Kalitan (Strong Arrow) was one of the first three Northern Dancer fibreglass canoes made, and was used by RCMP officers to take part in Vision Quest in 1997.  


Both canoes associated with the school district are mentioned in the book Canoe Crossings: Understanding the Craft the Helped Shape British Columbia by Sanford Osler.



The shishalh Nation also keeps a snéxwílh of the same Northern Dancer design.  We are grateful to the shishalh Nation for providing opportunities for students to go out in their canoe, creating a fleet of three Northern Dancers and one voyageur type for students to learn in and journey together.


                                                                                                                                                            Where the canoes have journeyed with students 




Please feel free to contact us with questions or comments:

Kerry Mahlman
District Principal
Indigenous Learning
School District No. 46 (Sunshine Coast)

Phone: 604 885 8345

Scroll to Top