'It gives our people the opportunity to be proud of who we are'

The Swinomish Indian Tribal Community concluded the 2011 Canoe Journey early Monday with an enthusiastic celebration of the strength of Northwest Coast Native culture and lifeways, as evidenced by the week of sharing — as well as the accomplishment of hosting the Journey.

"The Canoe Journey gives our people the opportunity to be proud of who we are," Paddle to Swinomish coordinator Aurelia Washington said.

People from more than 60 indigenous nations participated in this year's Journey. The modern Canoe Journey was started in 1989 to revive the Northwest canoe culture, but has attracted the participation of other Pacific Rim indigenous nations.

Hosting the Journey is a logistical feat. From July 25-31, Swinomish hosted an estimated 15,000 people — dinner fare included smoked salmon, clam chowder and elk stew — and a week of cultural ceremony and sharing by 60 canoe families. Swinomish concluded the week of celebration with a potlatch.

The 2012 Canoe Journey will be hosted by the Squaxin Island Tribe, near Shelton.

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