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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


May 17, 2003 - Issue 87


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Walking in the Sand

by Awo Saw Duk (Reggie Ward) -Third of a four part series
credits: photo courtesy of Awo Saw Duk

Canoe launchingThe beach at Quileute beholds much natural beauty. You can look out to sea for miles and miles, while your senses take in the salty aromas of the sea, the vistas of the ocean waves as they roll in, the sounds of seagulls flying about and the pounding surf roaring as it crashes upon the beach. You can sit on driftwood logs or giant root wads and take in the awesome view of the ancient shoreline formations of James Island to the north and the "Needles" or pointy sea stacks to the south. You can also watch beautiful, white colored Beluga whales, passing by in the breaking swells, While Walking in the Sand.

With our canoes and support boats tied up in slips at the marina and our camps set up at the campgrounds along the beach, our weary crews took to the community center up on the hill to the Welcoming Ceremonies of the Quileute Tribe. The welcoming was very heartwarming as their children sang songs, danced their traditional dances, and helped set the tables for the great feast that followed.

As the tables were being set, the canoe captains had their meeting to prepare for the next day's adventures, then members of the crews gathered around and shared their Dinner Songs from their villages and individuals shared their family Dinner Songs. Elders were seated at tables and promptly served while the remaining participants and observers gathered in line for a traditional meal and precious dinner conversations. This is a time when many people have opportunities to visit with relations they haven't seen for long times while others find opportunities to become acquainted with relations they didn't even know about. These are Very Special Times…

With full bellies, the celebrations continued and guests filled the chairs upon the floor and the bleachers. Each crew and their representatives from their village took turns thanking the host (especially the cooks!!!), singing many songs, dancing their unique styles, telling funnies, and just plain out having fun Potlatching. These activities went on all throughout the night. People took turns having power naps while others Potlatched right on through to the next morning when we had breakfast and headed straight on down to the canoes to continue the journey.

The weather was exceptionally nice this morning, and one after another the canoes returned to the open seas to journey on south to Hoh Tribe Territory. This portion of our journey was very breathtaking whereas the jagged shoreline, the islands, and small bays along the way are quite breath taking. Our canoes were traveling in a line that seemed to extend for miles (and in Part Four you will find out why this is not such a good method of traveling!!!). Crews were singing songs and enjoying the sun filled adventures that make these voyages everlasting memoirs. On this segment of our journey I particularly noticed that the National Oceans and Atmospheric Administration Research Vessel Tattoosh, was sailing with our canoes providing support and developing a video documentary of Tribal Journeys - Respecting Our Ancestors.

As our canoes arrived at the mouth of Hoh River, which at this time of year is about as wide as an ocean-going canoe is long, we began to enter the river at full speed, riding the swells with big smiles, well… most of us anyways. I think that some of the first timers were kind of worried and wore more concerned looks on their faces. One by one, the canoes came in to the river where the Chiefs at the Hoh River village and their Welcoming Committee recognized each canoe and welcomed them ashore. Again, our canoes were the guest of yet another, very good host that took very good care of our crews, not only physically, but spiritually as well. Those of us that were part of the Spiritual Ceremony that was conducted here, especially myself, are very grateful for the work that you had done. These Are Very Special Times.

The Hoh Tribe and their Rez may not be very big in size, but their people (where my Grandmother and Grandfather had lived) have very big hearts and carry very much respect for the cultural significance of the ocean going canoes. I believe the Hoh Tribe canoe and their crews should be mentioned for their bravery and courage for their many years of traveling up and down the U.S. and Canadian coast, in all types of waters and weather conditions, in a seal hunting style canoe.

For many years now and for many many sea miles, while journeying in many different oceangoing canoes, throughout the open waters of Washington State, British Columbia, and Southeast Alaska, I have experienced the marvels, the bravery, the courage, and the spirituality of these ocean-going canoe journeys and each winter I bring them back in my memories, WHILE WALKING IN THE SAND…

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