Adventure in Understanding canoe journey begins Sunday

On Sunday, 20 paddlers, guided by five leaders, will hit the water as part of the annual Rotary Club of Peterborough Kawartha’s six-day Adventure in Understanding — and this year, one of the paddles being used is making a homecoming.

For this year’s excursion, students from a dozen Ontario communities, along with students from British Columbia and Kanazawa, Japan, will embark on what organizers call a “once-in-a-lifetime journey” in partnership with Curve Lake First Nation, Camp Kawartha and the Canadian Canoe Museum.

After departing from Beavermead Park in Peterborough, participating students will pass through Lock 20 and over the Peterborough Lift Lock.

They and their leaders will then travel up the Trent-Severn Waterway to the Curve Lake First Nation pow wow grounds.

One of the paddles, originally carved in Curve Lake, but which ended up in Victoria, B.C., is being returned and will be used during the paddling trip.

Earlier this year, Don Watkins, chair of the Rotary Club of Peterborough Kawartha’s Adventure in Understanding program, received an email from Dorianna Chessa, a land-based educator from the Salt Spring Island School Board, which had purchased a paddle, along with two others, from a Victoria website selling used items.

She was told that the paddle had been carved in Curve Lake First Nation and decided to do did some research. On the Curve Lake website, Chessa discovered the Adventure in Understanding program in Peterborough.

She will be flying here to participate in this year’s event, along with one of her former students of Ojibwe ancestry who is bringing the paddle with her so it can be reunited “on the waters of Curve Lake.”

Chessa is interested in developing the Adventure in Understanding program in British Columbia.

The annual program began in Peterborough in 2014 with four students before growing to 20 two years later.

Due to the pandemic, the program had to be put on hold, but is now back for its eighth trip

When asked about the people who carved paddles at Curve Lake, former chief Phyllis Williams said she remembers her Uncle Wellington and other men who were fishing guides but who also had carving skills for the making of paddles — an art form that is dying, states a press release from the Rotary Club.

Brendan Burke is a staff reporter at the Examiner, based in Peterborough. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.

Brendan Burke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Peterborough Examiner