Canoes arrive at Suquamish Friday, Point Julia Saturday

Larry McGrady and Jon Kunkel of Sacred Water Canoe Family finish paddles Tuesday.       - Richard Walker / Herald
Larry McGrady and Jon Kunkel of Sacred Water Canoe Family finish paddles Tuesday.
— image credit: Richard Walker / Herald

SUQUAMISH — The Canoe Journey — an annual gathering of Northwest Native canoe cultures — stops in Suquamish on Friday and Port Gamble S’Klallam Saturday.

This year’s visits will be more intimate than previous years. Most North Sound and Canadian First Nation canoes are traveling north of Admiralty Inlet en route to the final destination of the Quinault Nation on Washington’s Pacific Coast. North Sound canoe families expected to visit Suquamish include Nooksack, Samish and Swinomish; from South Sound, Muckleshoot, Nisqually, Puyallup, Squaxin, and the family of Canoe Journey founder Emmett Oliver.

Port Gamble S’Klallam will host those canoe families, as well as those from Skokomish. All will proceed from Point Julia, joining other canoes at stops along the northern Olympic Peninsula en route to Taholah on the Pacific Coast. More than 100 canoes are expected to visit Quinault Aug. 1-7.

Canoes will be escorted from Neah Bay to Taholah by the tall ships Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain, commemorating the 225th anniversary of first contact between ships of the United States and the Quinault Nation.

There are several opportunities to watch canoes arrive.

South Sound canoes were welcomed by Suquamish Tribe leaders, elders and royalty Thursday, 2 p.m., at Manchester State Park in Port Orchard. Canoe families traveled to Suquamish in vehicles for dinner and a skippers meeting.

On Friday, the public can watch those and other canoes land at the Charles Lawrence Memorial Boat Ramp in Suquamish Village beginning at 2 p.m. A salmon dinner and clam bake will follow at 6 p.m. Protocol — an evening of traditional songs, dances and gifting — begins at 7 p.m. in the House of Awakened Culture.

“We encourage people to come and watch the canoes and watch the protocols,” Suquamish Cultural Activities Director Tina Jackson said. Although dinner is primarily for the canoe families, “we don’t turn anyone away,” she said.

Canoes depart Suquamish on Saturday at 5:30 a.m. and arrive at Point Julia between noon and 3 p.m. that day. Visiting canoes will be greeted by S’Klallam canoes on the water and welcomed on the beach by dignitaries — and a clam bake, for which Port Gamble S’Klallam is famous. Dinner and an evening of cultural sharing will follow in Little Boston. Canoes depart Point Julia Sunday.

Each Canoe Journey is a test of mental, physical and spiritual readiness; some canoes will travel as far as 400 nautical miles from their home territories to Quinault. Pullers are hosted by indigenous nations along the way, with each stop filled with the sharing of traditional foods, languages, songs, dances and other teachings. Songs often come to the pullers out on their ancestral waters.

S’Klallam canoe skipper Laura Price uses the Journey to teach the S’Klallam language. Pullers sing S’Klallam songs and keep pace using chants in the S’Klallam language.

“We look at our language as living,” Price said. “When you incorporate the language on the water, it’s like old friends — the canoe and the language — coming together.”

To volunteer at the events in Little Boston, contact Jonelle Grady, (360) 297-6276 or

Canoe Journey landings after Little Boston
July 21: Port Townsend
July 22: Jamestown (Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe)
July 23: Elwha (Elwha Klallam Tribe)
July 24: Elwha (Elwha Klallam Tribe)
July 25: Pillar Point
July 26: Neah Bay (Makah Nation) 
July 27: Ozette (Makah Nation)
July 28: La Push (Quileute Nation)
July 29: La Push (Quileute Nation)J
uly 30: Hoh River (Hoh Tribe)
July 31: Queets (Quinault Nation)
Aug. 1-7: Taholah (Quinault Nation)


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