Monday July 17th, 2017 marked the beginning of the Pacific Northwest’s annual canoe journey, a spiritual voyage embodying the cultural resiliency of indigenous sovereignty. Hosted this year by We Wai Kai and We Wai Kum Nations, the annual Tribal Canoe Journey welcome canoe families each year to journey the ancestral highways of the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast. This three week spiritual journey reestablishes a connection to the waters, to the land and to their communities and is a revival of traditional transportation and an act of indigenous sovereignty.
“This Canoe Journey is probably one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen come along in Indian country in a long, long time”
- Larry Sanchez, director of operations for the Nisqually Indian Tribe
Day One (Squaxin - Nisqually)
On the storied shores of Nisqually’s historical Solo Point landed six canoes that travelled from Squaxin Island. As the sun warmed the crowd of elders and tribal members awaiting the canoes to land, children cooled themselves in the bay and folks talked story. When canoes landed, tribal dignitaries welcomed the canoes to shore, an ancient indigenous practice that encourages nation to nation relationships and community efficacy. Today the canoes go onto Puyallup, and will continue on for the next twenty days to land in British Columbia’s Campbell River.
"For us its medicine being in that water. We’re not going out there to any race. It’s about being out there for us and traveling these waterways that our ancestors traveled. We didn’t have cars, we didn’t have trains. If you wanted to get to Tulalip or Swinomish, you paddled."
- Willie Frank III, Nisqually
"This is our first pull in our canoe this year, we came from Squaxin and today, we saw three seals!"
10 Year old Ina McCloud, Miss Tequma, Nisqually and Puyallup
Day Two (Nisqually - Puyallup)
Yesterday several canoes paddled to Puyallup for the annual canoe journey taking place in the Northwest Coast right now. We are grateful to Puyallup Tribal Member Clinton McCloud for his words, reminding us that our ancestors had to overcome cultural oppression so we could travel these ancestral waterways and be whole people.
"Growing up, we didn't have a lot of this and I felt this emptiness inside and you do these quick fixes to try to fill the emptiness. I think all of our people go through it because we're not whole yet, we're missing a big part of our culture. We're bringing it back and we're becoming whole again. We're in the city of Tacoma, which is Puyallup territory. My great grandpa Billy Frank Sr. said, like how Nisqually said it, 'Don't forget the water'"
- Clinton McCloud, Puyallup
Day Three (Puyallup to Muckleshoot)
We acknowledge that the canoe journey is not an only an act of revolution, but instead a call for transformation. As we spend full days immersed in the water, waking with the tide, pulling in synchronicity with it’s flow, and feeling it’s ebb, we can also feel it’s suffering.
As we pulled the twenty eight miles to Muckleshoot, we were reminded of the great words by Grace Lee Boggs,
“If in this period we, and all living beings on our planet, are extinguished, it will not be by any external cause. It will be because of the extravagant, thoughtless ways that we have been getting and spending and seeing little in nature that is ours. Our challenge is to recognize our responsibility for the economic meltdown and the planetary emergency and transform our life accordingly. When we do, we will reach a new plateau in our continuing evolution as human beings."
This canoe journey allows us to clearly see our need for transformation and to actively participate in the advocation for the health of the water, climate justice and mother earth.
Day Four (Muckleshoot - Suquamish)
As we paddled into Suquamish, we could feel the spirit of Salish hospitality— not only by the smell of alder smoked bar-bbq’d salmon and clam bakes in the air, but by the robust melodic songs welcoming us onto their land. In fact, we were so moved by Suquamish’s powerful voices, we decided to inquire more about the significance of their songs…
Denise Reed, a beautiful Puyallup and Quileute cultural ambassador, traditional cedar weaving teacher, and canoe journey coordinator has been participating in tribal canoe journeys for about a dozen years -
“The canoe journey saved my life many years ago. I don’t want to get emotional but I kind of had a crazy upbringing. When I was first introduced to the canoe it saved my life. It’s real powerful to give your problems to the water— and now I am working for the canoe family and so I get to help change other people’s lives— we get to help people get off of alcohol and drugs. It means a lot to me and my whole community.”
Day Five (Suquamish - Port Gamble)
Several canoes arrived at Point Julia in Port Gamble Skallalam's beautiful bay. Princess Carly Gomez speaks from the heart when she discusses her experiences with Canoe Journey,
"To be out here is really revitalizing. To be on the water is like traveling the same ancestral highways that the people before us did."
Day Six (Port Gamble to Tulalip)
We had the honor and privilege of paddling on Tulalip's canoe "Big Brother Wolf"-- the descendant of a great legacy created by Hank Gobin, one of the original founders of Canoe Journeys. We remember those who had the courage to dream this dream. And as we paddled, we continued to live his dream by learning to speak Lashootseed on the canoe:
Day Seven (Tulalip to Swinomish)
Several canoes landed in Swinomish for the 2017 "Standing Together" Canoe Journey. Ronald Day from Swinomish has been one of the skippers of the "Spirit of The Salmon Lady" canoe since 1989. Watch to learn more as he tells us about it's original dream:
Project 562 is honored to share inspiring stories and beautiful images from this year's Standing Together - Tribal Canoe Journey 2017. Keep up with the spirit of the Coast Salish by following us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. To receive text message alerts when new Canoe Journey content is posted, text "PROJECT562" to 41411.