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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


April 19, 2003 - Issue 85


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Walking In The Sand

by Awo Saw Duk (Reggie Ward)-First of a four part series
credits: Awo Saw Duk with tribal (Quinault Nation) President Pearl Capoeman-Baller

Awo Saw Duk with tribal (Quinault Nation) President Pearl Capoeman-BallerOn a hot summer day on the beach at Makah, I was Walking In The Sand along the shore admiring the splendors of the twenty or so giant cedar canoes that were lined up side by side on the beach. The beauty and boldness of these traditional ocean-going canoes overcame my senses until I heard my name being called. As I turned to see someone who is a very special person to me, I realized the beauty of the canoes and the beauty of my friend had made my heart feel really good and that I am a proud Human Being.

These are days of Spiritual Healing and Cultural Awareness, canoes traveling on the seas from village to village, sharing our friendships and making new friendships, crews and villagers sharing their songs, dances, and festivities. These are very special days.

This day was our departure day from Makah with Ozette being our next stopover. As we said Siokwil (Quinault Thank You) to our host the Makahs, we asked for permission to leave their shores to continue our journey to the celebration in Quinault. The Makahs said good words to our crew, gave us permission to leave their territory, and sang songs as we lowered our paddles into the water and began our journey. As we paddled out to sea we sang songs to the people lined up on the shores and ventured towards the Straights of Juan de Fuca, over and through the kelp beds, up and over the gentle swells of the Straights, and then on into the majestic Pacific Ocean.

Tatoosh Island is located at the entrance to the Straights of Juan de Fuca (known as one the world’s most treacherous bodies of water) and most of our canoes made a stopover there in respect to the cultural significance of this island. As we approached the island, it reminded me of earlier years, on one of our journeys returning home from celebrations on Vancouver Island, Canada. We were riding the ocean currents and paddling past a traditional resting place for sea lions. This was actually a small, flat island that the sea lions would utilize on their long journeys to the northern waters of Canada and Alaska. We were approaching the sea lion island and we had quite a few new pullers in our canoe, so I turned the canoe in towards the island so we could get a closer view of the thousand pound plus mammals. As we approached the sea lions, they began to bark at us to acknowledge our presence. This is when I gave a couple of return barks and, much to our surprise, four big bulls perked right up, barked really loud, and instantly dove into the water, swimming toward us like giant enemy torpedoes. Boy-o-boy, I’ll never do that again!!! The crew was yelling at me not to do that again and we were paddling as hard and fast as we could!!! And then the sea lions stopped, bobbed up and down and barked at us as we pulled away. We began to laugh among ourselves, proud that we were experiencing life’s challenges. These were very special days.

Our time on Tatoosh was very respectful and enjoyable, as we had a lunch break and returned to the waters destined for Ozette. The currents at Cape Flattery are very strong and you really need to catch the tide at the right time if you want to make forward progress. As we came around the island, I realized that we would be running against some tide so I turned our canoe out to sea to find a southerly current. Finding the current was not easy going; we had to pull hard for an hour through a trough (like a swift current with small waves like wind chop) alongside a small island. We did manage to overcome this challenge. Once we were in the current, my crew’s faces really lit up with smiles as we began to ride the current and surf through the ocean swells. This is really fun when you get the canoe going fast and the bow shoots up out of the water, with the lead pullers paddling in the air before coming back down into the sea again.

Our Journey to Ozette was nearly completed when we entered traditional whale territory. For many years I have watched whales swimming through these waters and watched them breaching many times. With this in mind, I began to sing my family’s Whale Song. Within minutes, a grey whale surfaced right alongside our canoe and the crew was astonished!!! I told them how my family is a head whaling family from time immemorial. The whale was awesome to watch and I began to tell my crew of legends of our people, the Thunderbird and Whale legend, and then I sang my family dinner song which (and this was REALLY funny to us) the whale suddenly turned and swam away instantly!!! Thus our canoes approached Ozette, and we landed our canoes and made up our camps. These are very special days, while Walking In The Sand.

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