Preparing for Canoe Journey

“When you’re on the water, you know that you’re celebrating your ancestors and taking care of your spirit”

-Tulalip tribal member, Sydney Napeahi.


By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

As the cedar dugout canoe, Big Sister, pulled out of the Marina and into the waters of Tulalip Bay, the pullers were singing the traditional songs of their people. The Lushootseed chants began to fade as the canoe journeyed across the water, traveling to Hermosa before returning back. Big Sister enjoyed two pulls on the evening of May 14, as numerous community members gathered to participate in canoe practice during the gorgeous springtime weather. The Tulalip Rediscovery Program and Tulalip Canoe Family are holding canoe practice at the Marina twice a week in preparation for this summer’s upcoming Canoe Journey, the 2018 Power Paddle to Puyallup. 

The Canoe Journey is an event that has been celebrated by Northwest coastal tribes since the early nineties. Originally inspired by the Paddle to Seattle in 1989, the summertime event unites several tribal and first nations communities to celebrate Indigenous culture. The tribes take turns hosting the event every year, in which thousands of Natives paddle in traditional cedar canoes from tribe to tribe until reaching their final landing destination. A weeklong cultural celebration takes place once all the canoes have arrived and tribes showcase their traditional songs and dances to pass their ancestral teachings onto the next generations. 

The Tulalip Canoe Family often navigates the water in a cedar strip canoe known as Big Brother. But while he was receiving minor maintenance, Big Sister got to travel the glistening waters of the bay. Taking Big Sister out on the water was a huge honor for the pullers who know the history of the dugout canoe.

“Big Sister was the first canoe to come back to Tulalip in more than a hundred years,” explains Andrew Gobin of the Rediscovery Program and skipper of the Tulalip Canoe Family. “It was carved by Jerry Jones and Joe Gobin and made for the Paddle to Seattle in ’89. It came from the National Forest from an old growth cedar. Big Sister is a dugout which is a traditional style. She’s a little more narrow than Brother which makes her a little bit more tipsy, so it’s important to be disciplined on the water. It’s important to pull together. It was good for [the participants], they got to get a taste of the difference between the canoes.”

Andrew stated that the Paddle to Seattle was the start of a cultural revitalization amongst Coastal Natives. 

“That’s when our people really got back in touch with the canoes,” he says. “These are things we knew were our ways, but not everyone had been able to experience. So in ‘89, there was that resurgence. Life was brought back into the canoes and the Canoe Journey was born out of that.”

Since its start, Canoe Journey has been a cultural event in which many people participate as means to heal, since it’s a drug and alcohol free event. Although Journey sees a mix of multi-generational participants, a large population of pullers, singers and dancers are comprised of the youth. 

“I feel like this entire experience helps us connect with our culture and get back to our roots,” says young Tulalip tribal member, Marie Myers. “I love singing and how everyone works and pulls together.”

“I came out to practice today so I know what to do when we’re out there on the water. I think it’s important for other kids to participate so they can learn about their culture,” added Marie’s brother, Nathan Myers. 

Marie and Nathan will be pulling in Canoe Journey for the first time this year and are excited to travel the open waters. The crew knows the importance of practice to be prepared for pulling for hours at a time along the coast. 

“There is no workout that can prepare you for how you’ll feel when you’re on the canoe, so the best practice is just getting out there and doing it,” states Tulalip tribal member, Sydney Napeahi. “It was a beautiful day and I love being on the canoe. The canoes have a spirit, we have spirits and the water has a spirit and it’s important that we all take care of each other and that we celebrate each other. When you’re on the water, you know that you’re celebrating your ancestors and taking care of your spirit.”

“These canoes belong to the people,” says Andrew. “This journey is honoring the medicine and that’s something we want to do this year. There’s medicine all around, there’s knowledge all around. It’s just putting people in touch with that. I was just telling [the crew], out on the water, that if we stay together, pull together and pull strong, that’s what’s going to pull us through. I think they’re having fun, when we got back everyone was smiling.”

After an evening of pulling, a group of youngsters had to jump into the bay after breaking the golden rule of Canoe Journey and mistakenly referring to the canoe as a boat. The kids were more than excited to dive into the cool water on the warm evening and even recruited some of their friends to join in on the fun. 

Canoe practices are currently held on Mondays and Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. and will continue until the Power Paddle to Puyallup begins in July. For more information, please contact the Tulalip Rediscovery Program at (360) 716-2635.

Canoe cleaning opens practice season 

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

For nearly thirty years, tribal nations of the Pacific Northwest participate in a gathering during the late months of every summer known as Tribal Canoe Journeys. Originally inspired by the ‘Paddle to Seattle’ of 1989, tribes of Washington State, along with bands from British Columbia, take turns hosting the Canoe Journey on their reservations each year. The participants navigate the open waters in traditional cedar canoes, traveling from tribe to tribe until reaching the host’s reservation, where an entire week of traditional song and dance takes place. Hundreds, if not thousands, of Native Americans and First Nations people proudly pull in the annual Journey, representing their tribes and sharing songs, dances and stories along the way. As you may have noticed, 2018 appears to be flying by as it’s already springtime, which means that this year’s Canoe Journey, the Power Paddle to Puyallup, is right around the corner.

In preparation for this summer’s Journey, the Tulalip Rediscovery Program, the Tulalip Canoe Family and multiple community members met at the Tulalip Veterans Park on the evening of April 2, for the annual Canoe Cleaning Ceremony. 

Andrew Gobin, Tulalip Rediscovery Program

“Today we washed up the canoes, getting them ready for the season and spending a little time with them,” says Andrew Gobin of the Tulalip Rediscovery Program. “This weekend we woke them up, brought them all out and had them brushed off for the year. Then today, we cleaned them up so they’re all ready to go. We got out all the marks and everything from last year so they look nice. It’s more than just cleaning the canoes, people learn to care for the canoes in this way. They get a feel for the canoe, they get to know her a little more personally.”

The three family canoes, Little Sister, Big Sister and Big Brother were cleansed and blessed as participants, ranging from youth to elders, gave the sacred canoes a full detail. Among the many community members were Tulalip Youth Council Chairwoman, JLynn Joseph, who stated she attended the event in support of the Tulalip Canoe Family as well as a representative for the Youth Council. Tulalip tribal member and frequent Canoe Journey puller, Monie Ordonia, also participated in the cleansing.

“I really love Canoe Journey,” Monie states. “I feel it’s an honor to be able to wash and clean all the canoes and treat them as sacred as they are. It was fun, I really enjoyed it. When I’m wiping the canoes down, I like to be in a prayerful field of saying, I honor you and I love you for taking care of us on the water.”

Now that the cleaning ceremony has concluded, the canoes are ready to launch into Tulalip Bay, so that this year’s pullers can get reacquainted with the open waters and rebuild strength and stamina for those long days of pulling in the sun. The Rediscovery Program is in the process of planning weekend-day trips along the coast, once the pullers are ready for longer trips on the water.

“It’s a basic teaching; you take care of the canoe, the canoe will take care of you,” expresses Andrew about the ceremony. “Cleaning the canoe and learning to care for the canoe translates to something deeper. When you take the canoe on the water and get into rough seas, she’ll carry you through wherever you need to go.”

Canoe Practice begins at 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday April 4, at the Tulalip Marina and will continue every Monday and Wednesday until the Power Paddle to Puyallup begins this summer. For further details, please contact the Tulalip Rediscovery Program at (360) 716-2635.  

Canoes Arrive in Tulalip

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

Washington State’s one-hundredth anniversary inspired a cultural movement amongst Pacific Northwest Tribes in 1989. While planning for the State’s centennial celebration, Quinault tribal member, Emmett Oliver organized a traditional canoe pull across Elliot Bay to honor Washington’s Native American culture. The paddle influenced the tribes to continue their traditional practices by starting the annual summertime event known as Tribal Canoe Journeys.

For nearly thirty years Northwest tribes have participated in Tribal Journeys. While honoring the traditional mode of transportation, multiple tribes navigate the open waters in cedar dugout canoes and travel together from tribe to tribe until they reached their final landing destination. The tribes take turns hosting the event each year, marking their reservation the final destination. After all the canoes arrive, a weeklong celebration ensues in the form of traditional song, dance and storytelling. The Tribal Canoe Journey experience reconnects tribal members with their culture and promotes positive lifestyle choices.

This year, the We Wai Kai Nation along with the Wei Wai Kum Nation are hosting Canoe Journey in Campbell River, BC. En route to the final landing destination, several Canoe Families entered the waters of Tulalip Bay on the evening of July 21, including Muckleshoot and Lummi. Tulalip Canoe Families also joined in on the ceremonial canoe landing, pulling alongside their guests. Once the Canoe Families were granted permission ashore, they enjoyed a meal before celebrating a night of culture during protocol at the Don Hatch Youth Center.

The Canoe Families, now traveling with Tulalip, continued their journey to Campbell River, departing from Tulalip Bay in the early morning of July 22. The canoes are expected to reach Campbell River by August 5, and festivities will continue through August 10.

Canoe Journey visits Tulalip





Photos by Brandi N. Montreal and Kim Kalliber, Tulalip News


After a brief stop at Hat Island, members of the 2015 Canoe Journey arrived at the shores of Tulalip Bay on Wednesday,  August 3.

Paddlers and company enjoyed an evening of food, friends and outdoor movies with popcorn before continuing on their way Tuesday morning towards Suquamish and then Muckleshoot.









Short Strokes: 2015 Canoe Journey Will Be Several Mini-Journeys

Richard Walker, Indian Country Today
ICTMN file photoThe Quinault hosted the 2013 Canoe Journey Aug. 1-6, 2013 in Quinault, Washington.
ICTMN file photo
The Quinault hosted the 2013 Canoe Journey Aug. 1-6, 2013 in Quinault, Washington.


The 2015 Canoe Journey will consist of several regional canoe journeys. When no indigenous nation stepped forward and offered to host in 2015 after the 2014 Canoe Journey/Paddle to Bella Bella, the annual gathering of Northwest canoe cultures appeared to be headed for a hiatus. But canoe skippers wanted to see the journey continue, and so a new approach emerged: Instead of one large Canoe Journey, there will be several journeys hosted in various regions of the Salish Sea.

At a Canoe Journey skippers meeting on Jan. 24, in the Suquamish Tribe’s House of Awakened Culture, the plans for this summer’s gathering – or gatherings – started to take shape.

Dates aren’t set yet – the Canoe Journey usually takes place in July — but it appears there will be a journey hosted this summer by the Ahousaht First Nation, on the west coast of Vancouver Island; the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, near Port Angeles; the Sliammon First Nation at Campbell River, B.C.; and the Semiahmoo First Nation in Surrey, B.C.

Bennie Armstrong of Suquamish’s Tana Stobs Canoe Family told ICTMN he’s filed permits, and is in talks with Seattle’s parks department regarding use of Genesee Park for a hosting in Seattle, the ancestral land of the Suquamish and Duwamish peoples. He said there would be a couple of days of protocols – songs, dances and cultural sharing – but canoe families would be responsible for their own meals.

The Canoe Journey is a considerable logistical and financial undertaking. Planning and fundraising takes at least a year, and some host nations have installed roads, developed camping areas and parks, and built buildings to accommodate the festivities and thousands of guests. The host nation also hosts breakfast and dinner each day for all guests, and closes that year’s Canoe Journey with a potlatch.

Based on past fundraising goals, host nations usually expect to spend at least copy million.

Canoe families – those in the canoes, as well as support crew and family members – travel, sometimes up to three weeks, from their territories to the host territory, visiting indigenous nations along the way to participate in traditional protocols and share languages, songs, dances, and traditional foods. Once all canoes arrive at the final destination, a weeklong celebration follows.

The series of regional journeys will help keep costs down for everyone while “keeping the spirit of tribal journeys alive in 2015,” Armstrong said.

The Nisqually Tribe is scheduled to host the 2016 Canoe Journey. The Sliammon First Nation is scheduled to host in 2017.



Tribal Canoe Journeys on hiatus in 2015 after no host comes forward

By Arwyn Rice, Peninsula Daily News

Canoes line Hollywood Beach in Port Angeles as participants in the Paddle to Quinault 2013 arrive at the traditional territory of the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe. — Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Canoes line Hollywood Beach in Port Angeles as participants in the Paddle to Quinault 2013 arrive at the traditional territory of the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe. — Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — The Tribal Canoe Journeys, traditionally an annual event, is expected to take a one-year hiatus in 2015 for the first time since 1993.

“No one has stepped up to the plate to host [the Canoe Journey] in 2015,” said Frances Charles, tribal chairwoman of the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe.

The first canoe journey was the 1989 “Paddle to Seattle,” which was conceived by Quinault tribal member Emmet Oliver and Frank Brown of Bella Bella.

That led to the first Canoe Journey in 1993 in Bella Bella.

For the journeys, tribes throughout the Pacific Northwest, as well as some from Canada and Alaska, gather teams of pullers.

They leave their own shores in canoes and visit other tribal lands along the way. Before they land, they ask the host tribe or first nation for permission to come ashore.

Landings are followed by meals, storytelling and the exchange of traditional songs, dances and gifts.

The journey culminates at a different location each year in a weeklong potlatch and celebration of tribal cultures.

The journeys will resume in July 2016 for the “Paddle to Nisqually.”

Typically, a tribe will announce itself as host two to three years ahead of time, so members of the canoe families familiar with the system have known for a year that it was unlikely there would be a 2015 event, said Vickie Carroll, Canoe Journeys coordinator for the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe in Blyn.

This past July, at the 2014 Paddle to Bella Bella’s final week, it was clear there wouldn’t be one in 2015, Carroll said.

“It’s a huge, huge undertaking,” she said.

Carroll said host tribes feed and provide places for as many as 10,000 people for the final week of welcoming ceremonies, potlatches and games, which can take years for tribes to save for and plan.

“It might have to do with the cost of hosting the journey,” she said.

Most North Olympic Peninsula tribes are planning alternative cultural activities next summer.

The Lower Elwha Klallam tribe, which hosted a Canoe Journey in 2005, is planning to host a celebration of the removal of the dams on the Elwha River.

It will be a gathering similar to those of the Canoe Journeys, but for a single weekend, likely July 17-19, Charles said.

Planning for the celebration is in its early stages, and the details are still being worked out, she said.

Carroll said that when no one took up the mantle for the 2015 journey, she began working on organizing a smaller canoe trip among the Klallam sister tribes — the Lower Elwha Klallam, the Jamestown S’Klallam and the Port Gamble S’Klallam.

The trip will be organized to avoid conflicting with the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe’s Elwha River celebration, she said.

Dates for the smaller journey have not yet been established.

Many tribes organize their summer activities around the Canoe Journeys.

The Quinault Nation, located in west Jefferson and Grays Harbor counties, has hosted in the past a “warrior youth camp” that teaches traditional culture and values to young tribal members, culminating with the Canoe Journeys trip.

“I understand that our local canoe families are focusing on a canoe camping trip in the summer of 2015 with the youth, which will prepare them very well for the trip to Nisqually,” said Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinault Nation, which hosted the journey in 2013.

“While we may miss not having a Canoe Journey in 2015, the spirit of the journey is very much alive,” Sharp said.

“Setting the next one for 2016 was a wise move that will help make that event even greater.”

Sharp said the Canoe Journeys have become a touchstone gathering for the tribes of the Pacific Northwest — one of the largest traditional gatherings of indigenous people anywhere in the world.

“This outstanding cultural celebration has changed thousands of lives, infused amazing vitality into Native culture that will last generations,” Sharp said.

“It has educated hundreds of thousands of people about our customs, our legacies and our priorities in life.

“The Canoe Journeys have opened the ocean and other ancestral highways to new generations while bringing back a culture that was nearly lost,” she said.

The Quileute, who hosted a two-day celebration at LaPush in 2013 during the Journey to Quinault, will participate in the Elwha ceremony, the tribal council said.

“We recognize the importance for our neighbors to have their river flow free of obstruction so their watershed can return to a more natural state,” the council said in a written statement.

“The Elwha tribe has always been a generous host for all canoes families going through their territories, and we look forward to celebrating this historic event with them.”

The Quileute plan to travel to the potlatch in traditional canoes.

At the Makah Reservation in Neah Bay, the Makah Canoe Families are planning a cultural camp for the pullers who would have otherwise been part of the Canoe Journeys, with some activities planned for the larger Makah community, said Polly DeBari, a co-captain of the Makah Canoe Families.

The Makah hosted the Tribal Canoe Journey in 2010.

The break in Canoe Journeys is both a disappointment and a relief, DeBari said.

While those traveling do not need to plan as much as the hosts, there is a lot of organizing for the pullers, their support teams on land, their support boat and training.

“Taking on a journey for a day or a couple of days or three weeks, it’s a lot of work,” she said.

Bringing the tree back to life

"Coast Salish Canoes," opened at the Hibulb Cultural Center and Natural History Preserve on June 27, with over 80 guests in attendance.
“Coast Salish Canoes,” opened at the Hibulb Cultural Center and Natural History Preserve on June 27, with over 80 guests in attendance.

New Hibulb exhibit gives an in-depth look at Tulalip’s canoe culture

By Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

TULALIP- “Imagine you are at the shore of the Salish Sea where a grand ocean-going family canoe floats patiently, waiting for you and others to begin your journey. The rivers, lakes and seas are our earth’s arteries, carrying its life force of water. For thousands of years they functioned as our ancestors’ highways, connecting our people together,” reads the opening display panel in the new interactive temporary Hibulb Cultural Center and Natural History Preserve’s exhibit, “A Journey with our Ancestors: Coast Salish Canoes.”

The new exhibit, on display through June 2015, explores canoe culture in Tulalip and in Coast Salish tribes. A soft opening for the exhibit was held on Friday, June 27, with over 80 guests in attendance. This interactive exhibit features over 70 items that guests can explore canoe culture through, such as videos on carving canoes, maps, display panels, paddles and tools used to carve canoes with, and a large canoe that guests can sit in.

Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News
Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

“We hope guests learn the importance of canoes and how they were tied to all aspects of our life,” explains Mary Jane Topash the center’s tour specialist, about what guests can expect from the new exhibit. “We hope to educate people on the types of canoes, anatomy, tools, what it takes to build one, and how they are still used to this day. This exhibit will encompass all aspects of the teachings, history, lifestyle, and how their importance hasn’t changed a whole lot over the years.”

Coast Salish Canoes highlights the roots of the Canoe Journey and the important role that canoes played in its revitalization during the 1989 Paddle to Seattle.

“It was a big learning process for us. It didn’t just happen in 1989,” explained Tulalip carver Joe Gobin, about the preparation involved in the Paddle to Seattle. “Frank Brown and Ray Fryberg Sr. got our [Tulalip] Board involved and the Board saw how this was something missing in our culture. They sent us to different reservations to learn, to Lummi and Makah, because none of us knew how to carve a canoe. We all talked about it and the tools we needed, and how when we were making the canoe we were bringing the tree back to life. And it did come back to life on the reservations, and it brought back so many things in our culture that were forgotten. I am glad to see this exhibit here.”

Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News
Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

Lena Jones, the center’s curator of education, says guests will leave knowing the importance of canoes in Coast Salish culture. “Our ancestors helped keep a rich environment with superb art. We hope the exhibit will help people appreciate the social gatherings of the Coast Salish people and help our young people recognize their community’s role in revitalizing important Coast Salish traditions that can, and do, help the region.”

For more information on “Coast Salish Canoes,” please visit the Hibulb Cultural Center and Natural History Preserve’s website at



Brandi N. Montreuil: 360-913-5402:

Canoe Journey’s message: ‘We need to wake up to what’s happening to Mother Earth’

The canoe from Suquamish embarks on this year's journey to Bella Bella.— image credit: Richard D. Oxley / North Kitsap Herald
The canoe from Suquamish embarks on this year’s journey to Bella Bella.
— image credit: Richard D. Oxley / North Kitsap Herald

By Richard Walker, North Kitsap Herald

LITTLE BOSTON — Pullers in the 2014 Canoe Journey are in for a long one, a 500-miler to the territory of the Heiltsuk First Nation — Bella Bella, British Columbia. They’ll be richly rewarded for the experience.

They’ll travel through territory so beautiful it will be impossible to forget: Rugged, forested coastlines; island-dotted straits and narrow, glacier-carved passages; through Johnstone Strait, home of the largest resident pod of orcas in the world; along the shores of the Great Bear Rainforest, one of the largest remaining tracts of unspoiled temperate rainforest left in the world.

They’ll also travel waters that are increasingly polluted and under threat.

Pullers will travel the marine highways of their ancestors, past Victoria, which dumps filtered, untreated sewage into the Salish Sea. They’ll travel the routes U.S. energy company Kinder Morgan plans to use to ship 400 tanker loads of tar sands oil each year. Canoes traveling from the north will pass the inlets leading to Kitimat, where crude oil from Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline would be loaded onto tankers bound for Asia; Canada approved the pipeline project on June 17. Canoes from the Lummi Nation near Bellingham will pass Cherry Point, a sacred and environmentally sensitive area where Gateway Pacific proposes a coal train terminal; early site preparation was done without permits and desecrated ancestral burials.

Young activist Ta’kaiya Blaney of the Sliammon First Nation sang of her fears of potential environmental damage to come in her song, “Shallow Waters”:

“Come with me to the emerald sea / Where black gold spills into my ocean dreams.

“Nothing to be found, no life is around / It’s just the sound of mourning in the air.”

Native leaders hope the Canoe Journey calls public attention to the fragility of this environment.

“We need to wake up to what’s happening to Mother Earth,” said Cecile Hansen, chairwoman of the Duwamish Tribe and a great-great-grandniece of Chief Seattle.

“We’re the indigenous people of the land. If anybody should be raising that flag, it should be Native Americans.”

Suquamish Chairman Leonard Forsman is pulling in the Suquamish canoe to Bella Bella.

WEB-Peg-Deam-flag“The Journey is a cultural, spiritual, ceremonial and social event,” he said. “The Journey can provide a platform for expressing our Tribal values that include habitat protection and improving or protecting water quality. Decisions on if and how to participate in political expressions are decisions made by each Tribal canoe family individually.”

Micah McCarty is a former chairman of the Makah Nation and a member of the board of First Stewards, which seeks to unite indigenous voices to collaboratively advance adaptive climate-change strategies.

He sees the Canoe Journey as an exercise in Tribal sovereignty, particularly in the realm of environmental education.

U.S. v. Washington, also known as the Boldt decision, reaffirmed that Treaty Tribes had reserved for themselves 50 percent of the annual finfish harvest; a later court decision extended that to include shellfish. In addition, Boldt established the state and Treaty Tribes as fisheries co-managers.

“The state-Tribal co-management relationship relative to … US v Washington is more effectively built on Tribal governments assuming more and more of the federal trust responsibility in the spirit of self-governance and by directly investing in Tribally determined education,” he said.

“Native sovereignty is as good as it is practiced and implemented. No one else can do this for us, and the best investment in sovereignty is education by Indian sovereign design — including curriculum pertaining to treaty resource damages [caused by] climate change and carbon pollution, particularly in the form of carbonic acid.”

The Canoe Journey is itself a tool to monitor the health of the sea. In each Canoe Journey since 2008, in partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey, several canoes carry probes that collect water data and feed the data into a recorder aboard the canoe. The data measures water temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, pH and turbidity.

The USGS is using the data to track water quality and its effects on ecosystem dynamics. You can read the results from 2008-2013 at

It’s the Canoe Journey’s first return to Bella Bella since 1993, when canoes made the long journey north to fulfill a vision of Canoe Journey founders Emmett Oliver and Frank Brown in 1989 after the Paddle to Seattle that was held as part of Washington’s centennial celebration. That 1993 journey sparked a revival in indigenous travel on the marine highways of the ancestors.

En route to the final destination, canoes visit indigenous nations along the way, each stop filled with sharing: traditional foods, languages, songs, dances and teachings. Pulling great distances can test physical and mental discipline. Traveling the way of the ancestors can be a spiritual experience, and songs often come to pullers on the water.

This journey will be as challenging as the 1993 journey. From Little Boston, canoes travel west to Port Angeles, then cross the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Vancouver Island. They’ll travel north along the east side of the island to Port Hardy, then cross big water from Vancouver Island to the B.C. mainland. As they head north, they’ll pull through passages and channels and will have to time each transit right so they’re not pulling against tides.

More than 100 canoes participated in last year’s journey to the Quinault Nation. The distance and isolated destination in this year’s journey requires a month off for peninsula and South Sound pullers and support crews. Heiltsuk is expecting 54 canoes.

Three Suquamish canoes and one Nisqually canoe departed from Suquamish on June 17, moored overnight in Kingston, then arrived at Point Julia on June 19. Those canoes and one from Port Gamble S’Klallam will depart for Jamestown S’Klallam on June 20, then meet up with canoes from Pacific Coast Tribes at Elwha Klallam. Canoes will cross the Strait of Juan de Fuca on June 22 for Vancouver Island and points north. All are scheduled to arrive in Bella Bella on July 13.

Among those traveling part of the journey: Marylin Bard of Kingston, Emmett Oliver’s daughter. She will travel in a five-person river canoe that was gifted to her father by the Quinault Nation last year.

“We will be traveling the ‘Old Way,’ carrying our own supplies on the canoe,” she wrote in an email. “No support boat, no hosting, just camp along the way. [We] plan to fish and crab for food.”

Get more information about the 2014 Canoe Journey/Paddle to Bella Bella:

Tribal Journeys to Bella Bella 2014

Source: First Nations in British Columbia


From Date: Sunday, July 13, 2014

To Date: Saturday, July 19, 2014

Location:  Journey to Bella Bella for Qatuwas II


Description: Following traditional protocol the Heiltsuk sent canoes to invite both the North and South coastal First Nations once again to Bella Bella for the Qatuwas “People gathering together”- Festival from July 13th – July 19th 2014. We expect over 100 canoes with over 1,000 pullers and about 5,000 visitors to join us for this important event.


Invitation to Bella Bella for Tribal Journey in 2014

Helitsuk hosted the Qatuwas Festival in Bella Bella in 1993, and have been actively involved in modern day canoe resurgence. The Heiltsuk leadership invite the canoe nations to once again journey to Bella Bella for Qatuwas II “people are coming together” in 2014. Our intent is to host the gathering in our new Bighouse.


Pulling Together

The ocean going canoe is our traditional mode of transportation. Participants in Tribal Journeys learn traditional ecological knowledge of weather and tides, gain respect for the ocean and its power, and work together as a team to build on individual strengths.

This year, Helitsuk youth had the opportunity to paddle to Neah Bay, Washigton. Helitsuk acknowledge the generosity of our hosts, the Makah Tribe. we also acknowledge our Hemas (traditional leaders) and elected leaders who endorsed the journey, and are thankful for the support of the community organizations.

The Heiltsuk Integrated Resources Management Department (HIRMD) is building capacity to achieve long term sustainability of not only natural resources, but also Heiltsuk human resources. HIRMD is working with QQS Projects Society and out youth on an engagement strategy related to science and culture, to ensure that youth are ready, willing and able to replace the HIRMD managers and staff over time. We plan to train coordinators and facilitators in planning processes, and employ youth to organize and participate in a canoe gathering in Bella Bella in 2014.

For decades the Hemas and elders have seen the need for a Bighouse in Bella Bella. Funds were raised to support some of the anticipated costs of construction and projects management. A team of supporters with the Kvai Projects Society are moving forward to realize the Bighouse goal.


The Journey Ahead

In the year ahead we will research and develop a strategic plan for Qatuwas II and the Bighouse project. We are interested in trade and barter to secure financial resources for project implementations.

The Heiltsuk territory still contains stands of old growth cedar. We would like to explore the idea of Nation to Nation protocols to allow us to share access to old growth cedar from Heiltsuk territory for canoes and ceremonial house logs, in exchange for financial resources to cover the costs of building the Heiltsuk Bighouse to host the 2014 Tribal Journeys. Another goal is to organize an intertribal exchange between the Heiltsuk and Washington State tribes to share information about governance, resources management, business and investment.

Please support Qatuwas 2014

We are a small community with limited resources, however, we are determined to make Qatuwas 2014 a success. We are seeking support from other First Nations, private and public donors.

Your support will allow us to organize this gathering with a dedicated team of staff and volunteers to take care of accommodation, transportation, food, sanitation needs, festival logistics, protocol planning, support for Big House construction, programming and communications.

We believe that bringing together youth and elders to celebrate our traditions and culture will strengthen us as a people and a community.

Qatuwas 2014 will let our youth experience the importance of the Glwa that connects us so much to our lands and seas. It fills our elders with pride to see our culture and traditions continue to live on through our young people.

The Heiltsuk Hemas (Hereditary Chiefs) and the Heiltsuk Tribal Council are proud to support Qatuwas 2014.


To discuss trade and barter possibilities contact:

Kathy Brown Email: | Heiltsuk Tribal Council, Box 880, Bella Bella, BC, V0T 1Z0


The Bella Bella Big House – Heart of our Culture



Tribal Journeys to Bella Bella 2014

Prayers and medicine on the Paddle to Quinault

By Richard Walker, North Kitsap Herald

Most people watching the Canoe Journey understand the annual event based on what they see: The arrival and departure of colorful Northwest Native canoes, the indigenous songs of welcome on the shore, the clambakes and traditional dinners, the evening ceremonies.

But there’s a backstory: The people who make or prepare gifts. The people who catch the fish and gather the shellfish to feed guests. The support crews that break down, transport and set up camp — from tents to cooking stations. The pre-dawn wake-ups so canoes can get underway with the tide. The quiet times at camp, when elders and artists and storytellers pass on their knowledge. The prayer warriors who lift others up. The singers who offer songs as medicine.

It takes a lot of prayer and medicine to get through the Journey. Few things can test an individual’s physical, emotional and spiritual readiness like pulling six hours in a canoe after a few hours sleep.

Suquamish Chairman Leonard Forsman knows this. On July 18, he was in Washington, D.C., to be sworn as a member of the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. He flew back the next day and was present when Suquamish hosted canoes. The following morning, he was up with the tide, pulling from Suquamish to Port Gamble S’Klallam.

Eden, a 9-year-old puller from Sauk-Suiattle, told me she was so tired on the water that if she shut her eyes she’d fall asleep. But another puller would nudge her awake, and her uncle would sing songs — some traditional, some funny — and she’d pull on.

Out on the water, you have to be prepared for the unexpected. You have to trust your fellow pullers and your skipper. You have to watch for each other. You have to have respect for the water and pay attention to detail.

Respect and attention to detail are lessons that are reinforced on the protocol floor — lessons that can be applied in life.

In Suquamish’s House of Awakened Culture, two Squaxin canoe family members fell during a dance in which one dancer carried another. When the dance was concluded, they returned to the spot where they fell, and a leader sang over them with a deer hoof rattle. Everyone in the house stood. The leader then shook hands with Forsman and apologized to him, assuring him that the family did not mean to disrupt the evening’s ceremonies.

Doing this was important. John Cayou, a Shaker Church minister from Swinomish, said earlier in the Journey that, to respect the water, it’s important to have good thoughts out there, with no anger or resentment.

And so, the mishap on the floor of the House of Awakened Culture was resolved. The dancers could put it behind them. And the songs, like the Journey, continued.

The songs and dances were powerful. The sound of drums and singing voices filled the house. Women danced in regalia — black and red shawls, some fringed, some with button or embroidered designs.

Then, Squaxin offered a Power Song that had belonged to John Slocum, the founder of the Indian Shaker Church. Among those dancing: Ray Krise, who uses a wheelchair. “The song gave me the strength to leave my chair and do another round here, something I never thought I’d be able to do.”

In Port Gamble S’Klallam’s House of Knowledge longhouse, songs were medicine for a visiting canoe family member who talked about her teen son’s suicide. Songs were medicine for a visiting canoe family member  who said he was stepping down as skipper because he felt his own behavior lacking. In bringing their pain to the floor, they ensured that they wouldn’t have to travel their journey alone. Just like on the water.

Francis James of the Sacred Water Canoe Family said later it felt good to “sing a few songs and lift up hearts in happiness.”

I remembered what Suquamish’s chairman said back at the House of Awakened Culture: “These things can have a healing process. The Journey will help heal, but we have to set our egos aside and let the energy on this floor heal us.”

The prayers and songs continued to carry canoe families through the trials of the Journey: Canoes that got caught in the tide. The canoe that overturned en route from Port Townsend to Jamestown S’Klallam. Canoes that had to turn back en route to Elwha Klallam because of rough seas. At some point, they all got back in the water and continued the Journey.

No. 8 of the “Ten Rules of the Canoe,” by the Quileute Canoe Family, states, “Being on the Journey, we are much more than ourselves. We are part of the movement of life. We have a destination, and for once, our will is pure, our goal is to go on.”

And so they did.

— Richard Walker has been covering the Canoe Journey since the 2004 Paddle to Chemainus. He will report from the Quinault Nation, the final destination in this year’s Journey.