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North Kitsap newlyweds to take Native American canoe trip for honeymoon

Anthony and Hannah Jones will celebrate their honeymoon next week by paddling in the annual Tribal Canoe Journey to Cowichan, British Columbia. - Kelly Joines/Staff Photo
Anthony and Hannah Jones will celebrate their honeymoon next week by paddling in the annual Tribal Canoe Journey to Cowichan, British Columbia.
— image credit: Kelly Joines/Staff Photo

LITTLE BOSTON — Newlyweds Anthony and Hannah Jones plunge their canoe paddles into the chilly waters off of Point Julia. Salt dries on their forearms as they determinedly stroke the water keeping pace. They are training for their honeymoon.

Anthony, a member of the Port Gamble S’Klallam tribe, is a recent graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology with plans to attend law school at St. Louis’ Washington University and comes from a long line of tribal greats. He is the grandson of Tribal Chairman Ron Charles and skipper of the canoe journeys Mike Jones.

To celebrate their marriage — the two exchanged vows Sunday at the tribal longhouse, House of Knowledge — the newlyweds are joining more than 200 people from surrounding tribes in the annual canoe journey to Quw’utsun, better known as Cowichan, British Columbia.

“I think it’s incredibly special. Who can say they paddled hundreds of miles with friends and family on their honeymoon,” Hannah said, squeezing Anthony’s hand. “I think it will be really rewarding.”

The Port Gamble S’Klallam will host tribes from around the Puget Sound region on Sunday at Point Julia, before joining the paddling procession to Cowachin.

Festivities include exchanges of tribal song and dance performances. Mike Jones said the first canoes are expected to arrive about 3 p.m. tomorrow.

The event is open to the public; however there is limited access to the beach. Parking is available at the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribal Center with a shuttle running to and from the beach.

On Monday three Port Gamble S’Klallam canoes will paddle across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Stops include Port Townsend, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe and the Lower Elwah S’Klallam Tribe. The journey to Cowachin is expected to take about a week.

Paddle to a

cultural resurgence

For years canoes were the main means of travel for the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, Jones said.

His grandmother, who lived to be 102, watched as cars replaced canoes, planes became more frequent and spaceships were rocketed to the moon.

“She said, ‘Oh my, those white people are so crazy, there’s nothing on the moon we need to see,’” he said, recalling the incident and laughing.

Many stories revolve around the canoe. Just ask elder Eddie Charles, tribal elder, and he will recount stories of the old days.

“Way back before European contact, before we got urbanized,” Charles said, laughing.

Standing on the beach at Point Julia, he points to Charlie “Brown” Trevathan’s family canoe. It’s black and smaller than the other two canoes set to be used during the journey. One even has the nickname Cadillac, for its more than sturdy appearance.

The front of Travathan’s, however, is tall and thin.

“It’s a dog head,” said Charles, explaining that type of canoe was built for whaling and is most commonly found in coastal areas like Neah Bay.

“They would hunt the whale down and someone would jump on its back and sew its mouth shut so it couldn’t dive down. Then they would put floats around its belly and tie up,” he said. “The whale could pull three canoes. Three canoes couldn’t pull the whale.”

From whaling to the modern tribal journeys, the canoe remains an emblem woven tightly into cultural resurgence.

In 1989 Frank Brown, Chief of the Bella Bella Tribe in Northwest British Columbia left his canoe paddle in Seattle.

In what became known as The Paddle to Seattle, Brown invoked a challenge.

He challenged local tribes to paddle to Bella Bella and return his paddle in 1993.

Mike Jones, who paddled on that first journey, said it took 13 days to reach Bella Bella.

“I lost 19 pounds and ate three and four times a day. I thought I was going to gain weight with how much food I ate but I still lost,” he said, adding he would often paddle for shifts that lasted six to eight hours.

In that first paddle, he said tribal members only had three songs to sing.

From the generations before, who were forced to go to boarding school, much of the Port Gamble S’Klallam culture was suppressed and even lost, including songs, dance and language, Mike Jones said.

However, after years of paddling in the tribal canoe journeys, he said they now have 36 songs they could sing.

“It’s really good now that we have those songs today,” he said. “When 300-700 people sing your song you created, it’s really powerful.”

Today, the tribal canoe journeys are part of a youth drug- and alcohol-free program.

It continues to attract the younger generations, providing an outlet to learn their cultural songs, language and dance and a view into other traditional performances by tribes in the surrounding region.

For Anthony and Hannah it takes on another meaning — their anniversary.

“It’s so unique and special,” said Laura Price, another skipper for the canoe journey. “They’ll always remember their first canoe journey together. It’s two celebrations in one. It’s beautiful.”

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