Experience the Canoe Journey | In Our Opinion
July 12, 2012 · Updated 4:00 PM
They will come as their ancestors did, from various places across the Pacific Ocean and the Salish Sea, from Quinault and Hoh and Quileute, from Makah and Elwha and Jamestown, from First Nations on Vancouver Island and lower mainland British Columbia, from as far north as Bella Coola on B.C.’s Central Coast.
Canoes participating in the Canoe Journey — the annual gathering of Northwest Coast indigenous nations — will stop at Port Gamble S’Klallam July 20 and Suquamish July 21-22 en route to the final destination, the territory of the Squaxin Island Tribe, July 29 to Aug. 5.
The landings and evening ceremonies are open to the public. The Suquamish Tribe and Suquamish Olalla Neighbors will host a community potluck July 22.
We encourage the greater community to experience the wonders of the Canoe Journey. The Journey is significant on many levels: It builds cultural understanding and relationships between Native and non-Native peoples. It’s keeping alive the traditional form of travel on the ancestral marine highways. And it’s a cultural renaissance that has grown in economic, environmental, political and social influence.
Indigenous languages are spoken on the Journey, particularly at the canoe landings when skippers ask hosts for permission for pullers to come ashore, and at evening ceremonies when dances and songs are shared.
The Canoe Journey is a metaphor for life, and young people learn valuable lessons — out on the ancestral waters, as in life, everyone has to do his or her part. You have to take good care of yourself, be patient and lift others up when they are weary. Pulling long distance in a canoe requires emotional, physical and spiritual fitness. That’s had a tremendous impact on young pullers.
The art of canoe carving has received a new breath of life; the Journey features beautiful cedar canoes carved by a new generation of Native carvers.
The Canoe Journey has been an effective tool for measuring the health of the Salish Sea. Since 2008, the U.S. Geological Survey has equipped five canoes with probes that collect data about pH levels, salinity, temperature, turbidity and dissolved oxygen in the water. The data is being used to track marine health and identify pollution sources.
The Canoe Journey brings thousands of visitors to host nations, impacting local economies.
The participation of canoe cultures from around the world has grown each year as well. Among the participants: Ainu, Greenlanders, Hawai’ians, Maori, Tlingit and Yup’ik.
In a Herald story leading up to last year’s Journey, Raymond Hillaire of the Lummi Indian Nation told of the healing that comes from the “never-ending flow of love” at each stop of the Journey. He told of the losses that the ancestors suffered — children lost to diseases, religious practices banned, villages destroyed. And yet, the grandchildren and great-grandchildren live, the languages are spoken, the songs are sung, and the culture survives.
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