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SEARHC, One People Canoe Society paddle to Celebration 2012

SITKA, May 11, 2012 — The SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Behavioral Health/Suicide Prevention Program will join the One People Canoe Society and other canoe teams the first week of June for a canoe journey from Kake and Angoon to Juneau for Celebration 2012.

The canoe teams will fly to Kake to start the journey (the canoes will be sent ahead of time). They will leave Kake at 6 a.m. on Saturday, June 2, and will arrive in Angoon about 7 p.m. that night. The teams will leave Angoon at 6 a.m. on Sunday, June 3, for the three-day journey to Juneau. They will camp along the way, with an expected arrival time of noon on Wednesday, June 6, at Auke Recreation Area, where they will be greeted by the Auk Kwáan people in a traditional welcoming ceremony. There will be a safety boat with extra paddlers traveling with the canoes, and canoe teams from Kake, Wrangell, Hydaburg and possibly Klawock may join the journey.

Doug Chilton, the chairman of the One People Canoe Society, said his group has taken two previous paddling journeys before Celebration events, the first from Hoonah and the second from Angoon. The group is supported by Goldbelt Heritage Institute, and Chilton said the society takes the journeys to honor the clan leaders and encourage our communities to learn our cultural ways and be active, productive members of the community. The canoe society is a non-profit organization based on culture, community and family.

“As a canoe society, we have been doing these types of long-distance journeys for 10 years in the state of Washington, Canada and Alaska, where we believe we have been the only Southeast Alaska representation on the out-of-state journeys,” Chilton said. “We are very excited with the recent growth and energy behind this movement.”

The SEARHC canoe, Toowú Latséen (“Inner Strength” in Tlingít), is representing the “1 is 2 Many” regional suicide prevention task force for Southeast Alaska and it will fly the task force’s Watchman flag. The canoe team will be raising awareness about suicide prevention along the way. Members of the canoe team include SEARHC employees, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium employees and community members. In addition to practice sessions, the team members have been carving their own paddles.

“It is very important to the task force that we let our youth know they are not alone and that we are there for them,” said SEARHC Behavioral Health/Suicide Prevention Program Manager Wilbur Brown, who is leading the SEARHC team. “We may not have all the answers, or even solutions, and we are not perfect. But we care for them and will do what we can to walk with them on their journey of life. Our intention is to raise awareness about suicide prevention, as well as use this powerful experience to help our communities, families and participants heal from past tragedies.”

Before arriving at the Auke Recreation Area north of Juneau, the canoe teams will overnight on Portland Island where they will be joined by clan leaders for the final leg of the journey. Clan leaders will join each boat in a place of honor, and they will lead the call-outs for the landing ceremony. After the landing ceremony, which is supported by the Goldbelt Heritage Institute, the participants will be taken to Juneau for Celebration.

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