LEAVING FOR LUMMI – Tana Stobs, the Port Gamble S’Klallam and Suquamish canoe family, departed for Samish from Swinomish on Tuesday’s morning tide, after camping out and sharing protocol at Swinomish. Some 70 canoes landed at the Lummi Nation today, starting a weeklong cultural celebration, which also marks 30 years of this resurgence of the Northwest canoe society. – Photo by Robin Carneen
NEWS HOUND SNIFFS OUT BREAKING STORY- Brodie assisted photographer Don Coyote during Monday's canoe landing at the Swinomish Nation. -Photo courtesy of Don Coyote.
A single bald eagle circled overhead as the canoes began to land at Swinomish Monday. A good sign. It was originally estimated that upwards of 5,000 attendees and participants would converge upon the landing site, located at the three cedar hat pavilion. While there is no clear way to calculate a final number, by all accounts the estimation was not far off.
Sunday, Tulalip hosted the journey with a reported 65 canoes landing on their beaches. Early Monday morning the canoe families re-entered the water to continue to Swinomish with the Tulalip tribe joining the journey. It was an eleven hour pull for the now 68 canoes coming up the Swinomish Channel. The Quinault nation was the first to arrive around 4:30 p.m. Brian Cladoosby, chair of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community Senate, and Kyle Bailey, a native language teacher and tribal member, welcomed them ashore while Olivia Bailey, also a language teacher and tribal member, announced each canoe as it paddled up the channel. Many eager family members and friends from visiting tribes cheered as they saw their canoe family come into sight. Following the Quinault were canoes from the First Nations in British Columbia, Puyallup, Nisqually, Elwha and a six-person outrigger with a family from Hawaii. They began their journey near Neah Bay on the west coast of Washington. The Shinnecock Indian nation was represented all the way from Long Island, NY. With paddles up and permission granted to come aground, each family proceeded to hoist their canoe onto the sand and then, with the help of at least a dozen people, lift it into the air and carry it to rest on higher ground for the night. Fatigued, hungry and thirsty, the paddlers were welcomed to feast on a chicken dinner while visiting and catching up with family and friends. They rested before rising again at dawn. Returning to the water, the numbers increased by three, for the Swinomish added their canoes to the journey. Tuesday’s leg was short, to the Samish Nation, near Anacortes. The Samish canoe family joined the journey for the final segment, the. Lummi Nation, arriving today. Over 100 canoes, traveling north and south, made the journey to Lummi to celebrate the Coast Salish traditions of dancing, singing and storytelling in a potlatch. This number has risen since the Swinomish tribe hosted the canoe journey in 2011 with some 88 canoes participating. Anna Cook, a younger generation journey Swinomish member, explained the significance of the journey: “It is really important because it is helping reawaken our culture while breaking down stereotypes regarding native people. Along with the journey we have other traditions like our language. We may not all speak the same language but through the journey we become one coastal nation, empowering different communities to come together in a safe space and celebrate.” Interspersed with canoes landing, songs and prayers were offered. A group of youth was sang an Eagle Blessing, accompanied by tribal senators drumming. Vendors sold their wares of arts and crafts, T-shirts and jewelry along the parking lots lining Reservation Road, closed off for the day to accommodate the crowd. Tents and camping areas were set up everywhere along the side streets, allowing a small amount of respite for families. Employees of the didgʷálič Wellness Center, located just north on the reservation, lent a hand to the festivities by volunteering their afternoon to assist with tasks, including driving the shuttle buses, raising the canoes as they landed and garbage collection. A community of many varied people came together as one on a sunny, summer day to celebrate and honor who they collectively are and the distance they have travelled.