For many, intertribal canoe event is a healing journey

Published on Thu, Jul 15, 2010 by By Jeremy Schwartz & Tara Nelson

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Representatives from numerous native tribes along the northwest coast of the U.S. and Canada paddled their way to the Lummi Stommish Grounds last Thursday as they make their way to the Makah reservation at Neah Bay on the Olympic Peninsula.

The tribes stopped on the shore of the Lummi reservation about one mile south of Gooseberry Point.  The stop is part of the Tribal Canoe Journey that takes place every year.

The 2010 tribal journey involves about 10,000 indigenous people and 100 canoes from all over the world, including New Zealand and Japan, said Crystal Denney, the 2010 Tribal Journeys coordinator.

Denney said the purpose of the journey is to help revitalize tribal cultures and strengthen inter-tribal connections. The surrounding, non-tribal communities also show enthusiasm for learning more about their neighbors, she said.
“It’s a really powerful experience,” Denney said. “There are stories of how tribal journeys have changed peoples’ lives.”

The paddlers at the Stommish Grounds were met with cheers from a crowd of approximately 50 people waiting on the beach. Representatives from the Lummi Nation paddled out to meet each canoe team before they came to shore.
Once the canoes reached land, the paddlers greeted the members of the Lummi Nation both in their own tongues and in English and asked for permission to walk on Lummi soil. Lummi tribal elders returned the greeting and welcomed the canoe teams to the reservation.

Samantha James, the 2010 Lummi Stommish princess, was on hand to help greet the arriving tribal canoe crews. The Lummi Stommish princess serves as the face of the Lummi Nation at various Lummi tribal ceremonies and events.

“[The canoe trip] keeps us together, which is important,” James said.

The first canoe teams to arrive were representatives from the Squamish and Tlingit tribes. The Squamish Nation is descended from the aboriginal Coast Salish people who inhabited what is now the Vancouver area. The Tlingit Nation (pronounced “klinkit”) call southwest Alaska their ancestral home. 

The tribal journey to the Makah Nation is the nineteenth such trip that has taken place since 1989. The journeys have been held on an annual basis since 1993 with various tribes acting as host. Every tribe from Washington, federally recognized or not, participates every year, Denney said.

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