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Canoe Journey packs some economic punch

It’s tough to pinpoint the exact economic impact from the annual Canoe Journey. But Noel Higa, economic development director for the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, said it’s readily apparent in the sales of one commodity: hot dogs.

North Kitsap feels some economic reverberations from the annual cultural event.

Port Gamble S’Klallam will host nearly 100 other Tribal communities when their canoes land July 20, and Suquamish will then host July 21-22. This year the host of the journey is the Squaxin Island Tribe, where all canoes will land for a weeklong celebration beginning July 29.

Each Tribe that participates during the journey pulls together to accommodate and feed the pullers and their support crews during the stopovers, offering something unique, such as Port Gamble S’Klallam’s clambakes and a community potluck co-hosted by Suquamish Olalla Neighbors.

Higa said the journeying Tribes set up camp on reservation campgrounds, and usually stay between four and five days. Often, a lot of the support crews will stay in one place and drive between Little Boston and Suquamish. Port Gamble S’Klallam’s Gliding Eagle Market sees a spike in store and fuel sales during the journey.

Suquamish, likewise, sees an increase in revenue at its retail outlets and restaurants, according to Russell Steele, CEO of Port Madison Enterprises, the commercial agency of the Suquamish Tribe.

“[The journey] has not only a cultural impact, it has a community impact as a whole,” Steele said. “It certainly brings a lot of people in to appreciate this experience ... The focus is more a cultural event.”

The visitors that come to the reservations to see time-honored cultural traditions and sometimes rare protocols can also take a piece of the journey home with them. Local food and artist vendors set up shop during the canoe landing, offering unique, local Native prints, drums, paddles and other artwork.

And while many business owners in Poulsbo and Kingston can’t pinpoint the increased revenue or foot traffic as coming from the journey, many said it’s easy to imagine the visitors shopping and dining in areas surrounding the reservations.

Darren Gurnee, co-owner of Main Street Alehouse in Kingston, said July is already one of his busiest times of the year, and events like the Canoe Journey “definitely help” business.

Local lodging also sees an impact from visitors. Poulsbo Inn sales manager Shawna Seals said the inn has an “overflow” partnership with Suquamish’s Clearwater Casino. When Suquamish hosted the end of the journey in 2009, all hotels in the area were booked for a week.

While Seals said there are fewer bookings this year, the journey brings something special to the area.

“You get to experience the visitation of all the different Tribes in Washington,” she said. “We’re not just getting our own local [customers], we’re getting business from all over the state, which we appreciate.”

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STORIES IN THIS SERIES

"Pulling in the Canoe Journey requires physical, spiritual fitness," page A1, June 22 North Kitsap Herald.

— "The Power of the Canoe," page A1, June 15 North Kitsap Herald.

— " 'Because of who we are': Gifting is an important part of the annual Canoe Journey, and of Native culture," page A1, June 8 North Kitsap Herald.

— "In Our Opinion: Our series on the Canoe Journey," page A4, June 8 North Kitsap Herald.

 

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