CAMPBELL RIVER, B.C. -- The video showing Cory drumming beside the ocean is the last thing he’d imagine he’d be doing, if you’d asked him a few years ago.

“Previous to 2014, I wasn’t exactly the model citizen,” Cory says.

He was struggling with addiction and disconnected from his community.

“To be honest, I had no business being around my people,” he says.

But then one day he found himself at a canoe festival, and Cory happened to have a conversation with a stranger who challenged the way he was living his life.

“After that, things changed and I wanted to learn about where we come from,” Cory says. “And learn our true responsibility as First Nations people.”

He was inspired to become a steward for the environment. He started learning about the cultural significance of things, like why the number four is sacred (“That’s always representing north, east, south and west”), and the cultural role that other animals play, like the orca:

“When somebody passes away, the past chiefs of their family will come in the form of the killer whale,” Cory says. “And they will come to carry them off to the spirit world.”

Cory also learned about the power of ceremony (like the one caught on video in Campbell River) to honour the 215 children found at the Kamloops Residential School.

“Everybody had pretty heavy hearts,” Cory says, describing the start of the ceremony. “We were still really feeling it.”

Words were shared and prayers were offered before Cory and other members of his community performed a paddle song. Then, he noticed that the people watching them were pulling out their cameras and pointing out to the ocean.

“Oh my gosh,” a woman off camera gasps. “Awesome!”

Of all the animals that could have appeared at that exact moment, it was not one whale, but four. “When that sacred number appeared, wow!”

Cory says it intensified the group’s playing.

“It was heavy.”

And the man who had once been so disengaged from his culture, couldn’t have felt more connected to it.

“Honestly, (it was) one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen and had the privilege to be part of,” Cory says.

The video shows the whales swimming close behind the performers. Cory says he was witnessing his ancestors and seeing one of their legends come to life.

“I believe they came to deliver our messages to the children,” Cory says, fighting back tears. “They’re giving the kids their final journey that should have taken place a long time ago.”