Some of the traditional Native cedar canoes participating in the 2013 Paddle to Quinault can be tracked online at www.tinyurl.com/K77zryw.
The site, which is updated every 10 minutes, features the progress of canoes from the Heiltsuk and T’Sou-Ke First Nations of Canada; and the Grand Ronde, Lower Elwha, Muckleshoot, Squaxin Island, Swinomish and Warm Springs.
Approximately 100 canoes are expected to arrive at Quinault for traditional welcoming ceremonies on Aug. 1, according to Quinault Nation President Fawn Sharp. Among the participants are canoes from Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe and the Suquamish Tribe.
“It has been 24 years since [the] Paddle to Seattle first revitalized this long-held Northwest tribal tradition, and the event has gained momentum throughout the Northwest ever since,” Sharp said in a press release.
“The cedar canoe holds great meaning for tribes throughout the Northwest and western Canada,” she said. “The annual Journey reaches deep into the hearts and souls of our people — both young and old, and helps them fully realize the vitality and spiritual strength of their tribal identity, underscoring our hope for a sustainable and positive future.”
This year’s Journey is expected to draw an estimated 15,000 tribal and non-tribal visitors to the land of the Quinault. The destination is Point Grenville, a Quinault beach near Taholah, approximately 40 miles north of Ocean Shores. Canoes will be escorted by the tall ships Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain, recognizing the 225th anniversary of first contact between the Quinault people and the new United States of America.
Dignitaries expected to attend: Sen. Maria Cantwell, chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs; and Maia Bellon, Mescalero Apache, the director of Washington state’s Department of Ecology. Also in attendance will be tribal and state officials and hereditary chiefs.
“All visitors are welcome, as is our tribal custom,” said Guy Capoeman, Paddle to Quinault coordinator. “The Canoe Journeys have always provided a great opportunity for tribes to get together, share our thoughts, stories, traditional dance and song, and strengthen our bonds of friendship. They are a great means to teach our children about their roots, history and traditional ways. They also provide a good opportunity for non-tribal people to get to know more about us, and strengthen relations between Indian and non-Indian communities.”
This year’s Journey is significant in that it is being hosted by the home nation of Emmett Oliver, who organized the Paddle to Seattle in 1989 as part of the state’s Centennial Celebration, ushering in the modern Canoe Journey.
“The contemporary Canoe Journeys began in 1989,” Capoeman said. “Emmett Oliver, a Quinault tribal elder, organized the Paddle to Seattle as a part of [the] Washington State Centennial ceremony, revitalizing the canoe tradition, which had been lost for many years. We now know this as the Canoe Journey. The Canoe Journey has become [a] symbol of cultural revitalization on a national and even international level. We can expect anywhere from 90 U.S. Tribes, Canadian First Nations, and even New Zealand to join the celebration. In the past, we have seen canoes from Alaska and even Hawaii join in on this event. It truly has become an amazing part of revitalized Northwest culture.”
Sharp, who is also president of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians and a regional vice president of the National Congress of American Indians, said the Canoe Journey creates opportunities for indigenous people members to re-learn, strengthen and reinforce their canoe traditions. Many cultural values are learned from pulling in a canoe.
“Among these are positive pride, cultural knowledge, respect, and a sense of both personal achievement and teamwork,” she said.
One of the iconic foods of the Quinault Indian Nation will be available to share with the thousands of people who will gather in Taholah for the 2013 Canoe Journey from Aug. 1 to Aug. 6.Tribal members collected razor clams in several ceremonial digs. The clams were frozen so they can be served during the week-long Canoe Journey celebration.
“I can’t imagine hosting the Canoe Journey without razor clams,” said Lisa Sampson Eastman, who has been digging clams since she was 11 years old. “My sister Sabrina and I learned to dig clams from our dad, Charles Sampson.”
Historically, Quinault tribal members used pliable yew sticks to tease the evasive mollusk from its hole in the sand. Today, tribal members use clam shovels to efficiently harvest for ceremonial, subsistence and commercial uses. As co-manager of the resource, the nation also shares surveying duties with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, protecting razor clams for the future. Surveys of the clam populations are under way now, following the harvest season.
Quinault Pride Seafood purchases the clams from tribal members, providing income for many who are not yet working in seasonal jobs that begin in early summer. The clams are sold for public consumption and bait for fishermen.
Richard Walker, Indian Country Today Media Network
The first tall ships that visited Quinault territory were harbingers of European and American empirical designs. And not all of those visits ended well.
The first European visitors were, presumably, Spanish explorers, arriving off what is now Point Grenville in the schooner Sonora on July 11, 1775 to claim the land for Spain. That visit ended with a bloody battle between Quinault men and the Spanish crew. (Quinault Nation treasurer Lawrence Ralston has a uniform emblem found on the Lower Quinault River confirmed by Spain to be of Spanish origin, circa the 1700s.)
Next came the Americans, in 1788, to trade; then the British, in 1792, to flex their claim on the area and assign British place names. The U.S. inherited Spain and Britain’s claims in the Pacific Northwest through a series of treaties between 1819 and 1846—although nobody asked the Quinaults for their thoughts on the matter. Treaties with indigenous nations and attempts to force the assimilation of the first peoples followed.
The new landing site for cedar canoes hewn by a new generation of Native carvers (Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission)
Next month, during the annual Canoe Journey, history will come full circle when the tall ships Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain escort up to 100 canoes—from First Nations in Washington and British Columbia—as they travel along the open coast from Neah Bay in Makah Nation territory to Taholah at the Quinault Indian Nation, which hosts the journey, August 1 to 6.
The Canoe Journey has “made a tremendous contribution to public education about the heritage of Native people and tribes and First Nations of the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia,” Quinault Indian Nation President Fawn Sharp says. “The events have also contributed mightily to the cultural reinvigoration of Native people and the connection between Indian and non-Indian governments and communities.
“By inviting the Lady Washington and the Hawaiian Chieftain to participate in this event, protocols are being followed which were neglected by tall ships of the past. This could thus be viewed as an opportunity to help make some amends for some past transgressions. Moreover, the participation of these tall ships in this event also helps convey a message that tribal and nontribal communities choose to look forward to and work together on a collaborative basis toward common objectives.”
The Quinault Nation invited the tall ships to escort the canoes this year because 2013 is the 225th anniversary of first contact between the U.S. and the Indigenous Peoples of the Pacific Northwest. “We are very excited to be able to participate in this important cultural event,” says Les Bolton, executive director of the Grays Harbor Historical Seaport Authority, which owns the Lady Washington and the Hawaiian Chieftain.
“2013 marks the 225th anniversary of the first contact between the newly independent United States and the rich coastal cultures of the Pacific Northwest,” says Bolton. “Since that first contact seven generations ago, our world has changed significantly. We want to encourage all people to consider where we began, where we are today, and give thought to the world we want our descendants, seven generations from now, to inherit.”
Launched in 1989 as part of the Washington State Centennial, the Lady Washington is a wooden replica of one of the first U.S.-flagged ships to visit the West Coast of North America. In 1788, the original Lady Washington arrived off the coast of what would later become Oregon to trade with the area’s Indigenous Peoples for furs, then sailed north past Quinault territory en route to Vancouver Island.
The modern Canoe Journey traces its roots to 1989, when educator Emmett Oliver of the Quinault Nation and Frank Brown of the Heiltsuk First Nation in British Columbia developed a canoe journey to be held in conjunction with the Washington State Centennial celebration. The resulting event—the Paddle to Seattle from indigenous lands in Washington and Canada—generated interest among other Northwest Coast Native peoples who wanted to revive the traditional form of travel on the ancestral marine highways. The Canoe Journey has been an annual event since 1993; the Quinault Nation last hosted in 2002.
During the journey, canoe families visit indigenous territories en route to the host destination and share their cultures. Each Canoe Journey is a logistical feat for host destinations, which provide meals and gifts to thousands of guests and host about 100 cultural presentations over a period of a week.
The journey is a feat of fitness for pullers. Pulling long distances in a canoe requires emotional, physical and spiritual fitness. Pledges to be alcohol-free, drug-free and, in many cases, smoke-free, are required. That’s had a tremendous impact on younger pullers.
Spanish emblem (circa 1700s) found in Lower Quinault River (Courtesy Lawrence Ralston)
Indigenous languages are spoken on the journey, particularly at the canoe landings when skippers ask hosts for permission for pullers to come ashore, and at evening ceremonies when traditional dances and songs are shared.
The journey features beautiful cedar canoes carved by a new generation of Native carvers. And the participation of Indigenous Peoples from around the world has grown each year. Among the participants in recent journeys: Ainu (an indigenous people in Japan), Native Hawaiians, Maori, Tlingit and Yupik. “Cedar canoes are deeply significant to our people,” Sharp explains. “Not only do they reflect a connection with the art and practicality of our past, they represent a statement of our commitment to sustain our values and legacies into the future. They are a living embodiment of Northwest tribal tradition, a powerful bond that strengthens our cultural, economic and environmental resolve. They are a reflection of our identity, as individuals and as nations.”
The Canoe Journey is empowering to young pullers. Courage and perseverance are learned on the water and from stories shared by elders. At the Canoe Journey skippers meeting February 23, George Adams, Nooksack, told of his grandmother’s residential school experience, how her mouth was taped shut because she refused to stop speaking her language. For his grandmother, the tape “was a badge of honor. She didn’t give up speaking her language. There are people who have stories on the journey. Listen to the stories, listen to the songs.”
The journey has done a lot to build bridges between Native and non-Native communities as well. Exposure to cultural activities associated with the journey has helped break down barriers and grow cultural understanding. “The Canoe Journey is an event that can help tell people throughout the country that the tribes are still here,” said Sharp, a lawyer and administrative law judge who is also president of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians. “We’re not going anywhere. We’re alive and well and we will be heard.”
There are other significant aspects of this Canoe Journey:
Restoring a Sacred Gathering Place
The landing will be at Point Grenville, Washington, where the Spanish landed in 1775 and which the British visited and named in 1792. “We want to acknowledge the historical significance of Point Grenville,” Sharp said. “Our Creator blessed our ancestors with ancient knowledge, a sacred and beautiful gathering place, a rich culture, economy, and heritage that were actively practiced at Point Grenville. After centuries of Quinault occupation, Spanish and foreign greed and a desire to lay claim to our lands led to bloodshed and war.”
In the 1930s, Quinault created a scenic park at Point Grenville. The site later became home to a U.S. Coast Guard LORAN Station. For the past three decades, Point Grenville has been vacant. For the Canoe Journey, Quinault has developed or is developing on Point Grenville beach access trails, lawns, a flag pavilion, and viewing areas. The nation is installing three carved-story poles that symbolize Quinault spirituality, sovereignty, and restoration. “This year, our generation [is] restoring the spiritual, cultural and economic significance of our sacred gathering places, starting at the most westerly point of our tribal homelands,” Sharp said. “This year, the entire world will celebrate this restoration and the beauty of our people, lands and ancestral inheritance.”
Monitoring Marine Health
Several canoes will again be outfitted with probes that collect information about water conditions: dissolved oxygen, pH levels, salinity, temperature, and turbidity. Data collected in each Canoe Journey since 2008 are being processed and mapped by the U.S. Geological Survey to help identify signs of climate change, impacts from development, and changes in the levels and types of nutrients and pollutants washing into the ocean.
It’s the melding of one of the oldest technologies on the sea—the carved cedar canoe—with some of the newest technology. Each stainless-steel probe is two feet long and two-and-a-half inches in diameter, and trails the canoe at a depth of six feet, according to the survey. On the trailing edge of the probe are sensors that collect water-quality data every 10 seconds. The data are transmitted to a data logger on board the canoe, and the latitude and longitude is automatically recorded via global positioning system. “When we are able to so capably use traditional tools to achieve such contemporary objectives, a special connection is made that underscores the significance of knowing and understanding tribal history,” Sharp says.
“That is a lesson I hope people will learn from the journey—that there are solutions to the challenges we face today in the annals of our history. Challenges, such as climate change, ocean acidification, water pollution and even social and economic challenges can all be far more easily resolved if we choose to learn from history. Even with today’s computer technology, so many answers to the challenges we all face today are in the wisdom of the ages.”
Honoring Those in Uniform
The theme of this year’s journey is Honoring Our Warriors, a tribute to Native men and women in uniform. “We feel it is important for people everywhere to know that tribal members have been first to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces,” Sharp said, and at a greater number per capita than any other ethnic group. “They deserve every honor we can bestow on them.”
On Wednesday, April 17th, Tulalip tribal members brought out the canoes; Big Sister, Little Sister and Big Brother, for the traditional cleaning and awakening them. This activity, referred to as protocol, is important spiritually for the canoes and tribal members.
The significance for waking the canoes is to clear any sort of negative energy that may be left over from the season before or any bad energy that may have accumulated over the winter.
During the resting period the canoes are housed in a special canoe shed behind the Veteran’s Center. Tulalip tribal member Jason Gobin is the delegated as caretaker of the canoes and ensures that protocol is followed once the canoes are put away for the season and reawakened the following spring.
“The water is very powerful and the canoe is what takes care of us while we are out in the water,” says Tribal member and Canoe Family Skipper Darkfeather Ancheta, “Being in the Skipper position I have felt the negative energy. If the negativity is there then the canoe will not want to turn the way you are trying to make it go.”
The canoes are made from cedar trees and have a spirit giving them life for many years so they are taken care of diligently by tribal members. At the end of the season they are put to rest in their covered area until the following spring.
Canoe practice for the 2013 Canoe Journey will be held at the Tulalip Marina at 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday and is open to the community.