For Ryan Kruger, a 10-day journey by canoe is just a taste of what he hopes to experience later this year on a trip to the North Atlantic, though there is no doubt the Penticton Indian Band member enjoyed the experience.
“It was an amazing experience, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. There is a lot of good people involved in these journeys.”
Kruger was one of the Penticton Indian Band members paddling the band’s canoe earlier this month in the annual Pulling Together canoe journey. Paddling 13-person traditional First Nations canoes, 19 teams joined in the trip paddling from Tofino to Port Alberni, finishing up on July 9.
About 300 adults and youth, enforcement officers from Fisheries and Oceans, RCMP, Parks Canada, etc. plus 10 support vessels and a tall ship, the Oriole, joined in the Pulling Together journey, which has the goal of enhancing understanding between public service agencies and aboriginal peoples.
“Kruger has done a number of these journeys already,” said Matthew Baran, a family enrichment worker with the band.
One of those trips was soon after Kruger joined the band’s canoe family, when he was on the team that went to Scotland to paddle with Chris Cooper aboard the Spirit Dancer around the Orkney Islands.
Kruger credits joining the PIB’s canoe program and their journeys with changing his life.
“It saved my life. I was going in a completely wrong direction. I wouldn’t be who am today if I didn’t go on that trip and get in that canoe,” said Kruger. “It brought me in touch with my culture and numerous other things. Everybody that goes in takes something out. It changes something in people.”
Now Kruger has been invited to join Cooper once again, this time in the Shetland Islands to continue his learning journey.
“Chris Cooper, who runs the program over there, is a master paddler. It’s a really big opportunity for Ryan to get over there and be tutored by somebody with that kind of experience,” said Baran. “He’s looking at taking this canoeing concept, not only to a cultural level but also to a higher level as far as his performance goes.”
Baran explained that Kruger will be learning more about ocean-going canoeing as well as canoe tripping, an education, he continued, that very few people can provide, especially in the rough waters of the North Sea.
“When we were there in 2009, nine-foot swells were commonplace,” said Baran. “He (Kruger) has a very great talent, In a few short years he’ll surpass whatever I can do in a canoe. It’s fantastic, I am really proud of him.”