Awakening the canoes

By Wade Sheldon, Tulalip News

On Monday, April 15, the Tulalip Canoe Family gathered at the Hibulb Cultural Center for the awakening ceremony. This ceremony, a significant part of our cultural tradition, involves washing the canoes in preparation for the upcoming season on the water. The tradition of waking the canoes has been practiced since the revamp of the canoe journey back in 1989 for the Paddle to Seattle. The canoe family relies on the canoe for protection and stability on the water, so they treat it with honor and respect. By doing so, the canoe will keep the riders safe and secure during their journeys.

Taylor Henry, a respected member of the canoe family, took the lead in the ceremony. He encouraged the younger ones to participate, advising them to pick up a cedar bow and to think good thoughts while walking around and blessing the canoes. Passing down the tradition to the next generation is a crucial part of the ceremony, ensuring its continuity and preserving the canoe family’s cultural practices.   

“We do this every year to wake up the canoes to let them know we are going to start to take them out on the water, Henry said. “We want to take care of the canoes so that they can take care of us. It’s been a long winter, and the canoes have been stored safely; washing the canoes as a community gives the people a chance to come together and start building for a new season on the water. 

Each year, many new faces join the canoe family. One of the latest members, Elizabeth Williams-Juneau, shared, “This is my first year being a part of the canoe family. It’s an amazing experience because I didn’t grow up learning these teachings. I’m excited to be here, take in new experiences, and be a part of my culture.”

Gathered with purpose, the Tulalip Canoe Family came together to awaken their vessels, renewing their bond with tradition and each other. Their determination remained unwavering as they prepared for the season, finding strength in their shared heritage and the promises of safe travels on the water.

If you would like to get more involved or participate, the Tulalip Canoe Family will have practice every Wednesday at 5:30 at the Tulalip Marina. For more information, contact Andrew Gobin at (425) 244 7958.