Tribal Canoe Journey by Haley McClure

August 10, 2012 at 11:13 pm Leave a comment

It was a proud week for Native people as Squaxin Island Tribe hosted ingenious Nations from the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, Canada and New Zealand and beyond, as well as over 12,000 visitors on their ancestral land. The Squaxin Island Tribe named this year’s Canoe Journey: “Teachings of Our Ancestors”.

The Annual Canoe Journey has strengthened the ties of Pacific Northwest coastal tribes since its creation in 1989, when nine canoes participated in the Suquamish Tribe’s “Paddle to Seattle.” Now, more than 100 canoe families—from Port Gamble S’Klallam, Swinomish, Makah, Suquamish, Cowichan, Lummi, Muckleshoot, Elwha, Chemanius B.C., Tulalip, Quinault, Squamish B.C., Songees B.C., Ahousaht B.C., Puyallup and LaPush—make the annual voyage to celebrate the revival of traditional travel on the ancestral highways of the coastal Pacific Northwest. Cedar canoes are the traditional mode of transportation for Pacific Northwest Tribes on inland waterways.

Each summer, a different tribe hosts the canoe landing. This year, hundreds of canoes descend upon the Port of Olympia where Squaxin Island Tribal dancers and drummers welcomed the paddlers, many of whom have traveled weeks.

The Squaxin Island Tribe named this year’s Canoe Journey: “Teachings of Our Ancestors.”

The Squaxin tribe are descendants of seven tribes that prospered among the inlets of south Puget Sound, and are known as “The People of the Water,” because the waterways were their highways for hunting, fishing, trading and potlatching with other tribal families.

The canoe journey is about healing. For tribal people, it’s about reconnecting with their history and teaching new generations of tribal members about their traditions and culture that for a long time were in danger of being lost.

Charlene Krise, a member of the Squaxin Island Tribal Council and executive director of the tribe’s Museum Library and Research Center, says the revival of the canoe journey has rejuvenated tribal nations to reclaim their traditions. For the South Sound nontribal community, it was also healing in the building of stronger bridges between cultures.

Hundreds of people worked together to organize the largest canoe journey in its recent reincarnation. Given the Squaxin Island Tribe’s historic and cultural reliance on its natural and traditionally used resources; the Paddle to Squaxin Green Team was committed to upholding the teachings of our ancestors to care for Mother Earth.

A tremendous amount of waste is generated with over 12,000 visitors to the Squaxin Island Tribe Reservation. The Green Team planed intricately with Mason County recycling and Thurston County Natural Resources for low-waste canoe journey. When visitors were celebrating and camping Green Team members diligently and with smiles on their faces picked up and sorted hundreds of pounds trash. It was a dirty job but the support of all visitors, volunteers, and community members the bins became full and the reservation sparkled. This event is another sign that efforts to protect the environment, human health, and community welfare and above all cultural exchange uplift us.

For more information and pictures visit: http://paddletosquaxin2012.org/

Haley McClure works with Marigold Fair Trade and is currently creating a video about the Canoe Journey and her experiences volunteering on the Green Team.

Haley McClure and Sonny George

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Entry filed under: In the media, Local News.

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