Celebrating heritage at Chief Seattle Days

"SUQUAMISH - Thousands of people converged on the waterfront this weekend to celebrate the memory of Chief Seattle. In keeping with the leader's vision to bring understanding between cultures, Benny Armstrong, Tribal Chairman, welcomed the crowd. He spoke of the Suquamish tribe's goal for 2000. He urged tribal and non-tribal members to work together to accomplish their goals. U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee echoed that sentiment calling for cooperation to settle some unfinished business. He talked about salmon recovery efforts in the area and denounced the Republicans' call to disband tribal governments. But, the celebration this past weekend wasn't about politics, but about pride. Whether it was through canoe races, dancing, or partaking in a salmon dinner, the 89th Chief Seattle Days celebration overflowed with traditions, some old and some rediscovered. For the first time in many years the Suquamish tribal dancers donned cedar bark regalia while they performed songs welcoming the crowd. Then there were canoe races, which tested the craftsmanship and sportsmanship of the participants. Danny Edwards, of Vancouver Island, B.C. waited on the beach for his try at the two-man race.. It's something to do for the summer, Edwards said. His father Roy has built canoes for more than 50 years. He watched as other boats were carried down the hill to the water. The tradition of building canoes is a dying art, he said. The big cedars are hard to find, he explained. In years past, large cedar trees were chosen based on the way the sunlight hit the wood. The sunlight would harden and dry the wood which would serve as the boat's bottom. But, the senior Edwards said, You can't be choosy now. Up the hill on the celebration grounds, a large crowd gathered on log benches to watch dancers from several tribes including the Suquamish. Trish Chargualaf and her three children-Vincent, age five; Kali, four and Sequoia, 20 months, shared lunch under a canopy. I like watching the dancers in all of their regalia, Chargualaf said. She also attended the celebration to encourage her children's involvement in their culture. One of the dancers they might have seen is Bear Loneia, who said his dancing was to honor the people that brought me back to my way of life. Each step is a prayer asking the creator to use me as he will, Loneia said. Chief Seattle Days crowned its royalty with Heather Purser named Miss Chief Seattle Days. The festival celebrates the memory of Chief Seattle who signed the Treaty of Port Elliott in 1855 that established the Port Madison Indian Reservation. "

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