200-mile canoe trip to Canada will be a demonstration of physical
and spiritual fitness.
a Native American canoe a "boat" and you will get a quick
say anyone who calls it that gets thrown in the water,' said Port
Gamble S'Klallam Tribe member Mary Trevathan, with a smile.
simply call it a "boat" does seem a clunky description.
The long, low, smooth vessels are used by canoe nations around the
Pacific Northwest and Canada to connect tribes and their business.
the tradition lay dormant for years in many tribes, the customs
are changing. Canoe journeys have become more frequent and popular
in the last decade, said Suquamish Tribal Chairman Bennie Armstrong.
a result, every year the extended tribal canoe family comes together
to make a long journey. This year the Suquamish and Port Gamble
S'Klallam tribes will be part of a group travelling almost 200 miles
in traditional cedar and the modern fiberglass canoes. Their destination
is Ladysmith, British Columbia, Canada, where they will meet with
the Chemainus Tribe. The journey will take two weeks for the Suquamish
and S'Klallam paddlers, and longer for tribes coming from even farther
away. About 30 canoes and several thousand people, both paddlers
and support staff, are expected in Ladysmith the first week of August.
part of the trek, the Suquamish and S'Klallam tribes are hosting
other canoe nations making their way north.
Thursday afternoon, a line of canoes that had paddled six miles
from Muckleshoot dotted the horizon as they slowly made their way
to the Suquamish beach, where members of the tribe were preparing
canoes lined up just off the shore and one by one the visiting tribes
Squamish, Squaxin, Nisqually, Puyallup, and Muckleshoot shouted
greetings and asked for permission to come ashore. Each tribe was
welcomed individually by a Suquamish Tribe leader.
Saturday, the Suquamish Tribe will put its canoes in the water and
travel with the growing cedar fleet to Port Gamble. There, they
will be hosted for the night by the S'Klallam Tribe, and the celebration
will be repeated.
canoe journeys are full of ceremony, Armstrong is quick to point
out that it's not just for show.
not a re-enactment, this is who we are," he said. "This
is for us, for our spiritual rebirth."
cultural as well as spiritual, according to Marilyn Wandrey, a canoe
leader from the Suquamish Tribe.
pointed to young tribal member Max Dawes as he toddled by, clutching
a leather drum.
the fruit of our efforts," she said, noting proudly that the
2-year-old can already sing in the Suquamish native language Lushootseed.
canoe journeys are a part of the push to rediscover a heritage tribe
members were not always taught to be proud of, Wandrey said.
message is not lost on tribal youth.
a canoe practice earlier this week, S'Klallam Tribe paddler Bethany
Swift, 18, said being on the water gives her time to think.
you're on the water you don't think about 'Is so-and-so going to
call me?' and stuff," said Swift. "It's more about 'This
is what our ancestors did, how they lived their life'."
said the elders in her tribe are proud of the youth taking part
in the canoe journey. "The main goal is to introduce our young
people to the culture and teach them a drug-free life," said
Trevathan, who a skipper on one of the S'Klallam's three crews.
empowering for adults and youth who have struggled with drug or
alcohol abuse to see others who have overcome the same problems
on the canoe journey, said S'Klallam skipper Mike Jones.
think if others can do it, they can do it too," Jones said.
positive effect of involvement in canoe trips extends beyond substance
who owns her own canoe that she takes on the journey every year,
said proudly that all high school seniors on her Suquamish canoe
graduated this year.
she said, "is how powerful it is."