Canoe Journey Journal

Coverage of the annual gathering of canoe cultures

BELLA BELLA, B.C. — Representatives of the Suquamish Tribe are scheduled to take the floor at 10 a.m. July 16 — today — in the Heiltsuk First Nation town of Bella Bella, British Columbia.

Bella Bella is the final destination in the 2014 Canoe Journey. According to the coordinator of the Paddle to Bella Bella Facebook page, Heiltsuk is hosting 31 canoes from indigenous nations from throughout the Northwest. Some canoe crews included pullers from other indigenous canoe cultures, among them Brazil, Hawaii and New Zealand.

Watch the livestream at

Get protocol schedules and updates at

0716 suquamish in the fog

Above: A Suquamish canoe travels through fog en route to Bella Bella, B.C., on July 12. Canoes from through the Northwest arrived in the Heiltsuk First Nation town of Bella Bella on July 13. A week of cultural celebration continues through July 19. Tracy Rector / Longhouse Media

Prayers and medicine on the Paddle to Quinault

July 28th, 2013 at 12:07 pm by rwalker
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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.

Track canoes online in the 2013 Canoe Journey/Paddle to Quinault

July 26th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by rwalker
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Some of the traditional Native cedar canoes participating in the 2013 Paddle to Quinault can be tracked online at

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.

For more information, including site maps and schedule, go to

Canoe overturns near Port Townsend; Coast Guard responds

July 22nd, 2013 at 11:35 am by rwalker
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THIRD REPORT: From Clallam County Fire District 3, Monday, 1:05 p.m.:

According to Clallam County Fire District 3, which responded to the scene, the overturned canoe was from Vancouver Island; the skipper is from Duncan.

All pullers and the skipper were evaluated at John Wayne Marina, district spokesman Patrick Young said. One male was taken to Olympic Medical Center for further evaluation, the other eight were taken to the camp at Jamestown S’Klallam.

SECOND REPORT: From the U.S. Coast Guard, Monday, 12:14 p.m.

SEATTLE — The Coast Guard has recovered nine people from the water near Port Townsend.

A passing cargo vessel alerted the Coast Guard 25-foot Response Boat Small, homeported in Port Angeles, and the Coast Guard 45-foot Response Boat Medium, homeported in Bellingham,of an overturned canoe with people waving their arms in the water.

All nine people were recovered by the 45-foot response boat and transferred to John Wayne Marina in Sequim, where they were transferred by local Emergency Medical Services. It was reported that some of the people were experiencing mild hypothermic conditions.

The 25-foot response boat towed the canoe to John Wayne Marina.


PORT TOWNSEND — A Northwest tribal canoe participating in the Canoe Journey/Paddle to Quinault reportedly overturned with nine people onboard Monday.

At approximately 7:39 a.m., watchstanders at the U.S. Coast Guard’s Sector Puget Sound received a report from Jefferson County of nine people in the water near Admiralty Bay. The call to Jefferson County was reported to be from one of the people in the water, the Coast Guard reported. The call was reportedly made from a cell phone.

An HH-65 Dolphin helicopter was launched from Air Station Port Angeles. Two 25-foot Response Boat Smalls were deployed from Station Port Angeles. One 45-foot Response Boat Medium from Station Bellingham, and Coast Guard Cutter Wahoo, an 87-foot patrol boat homeported in Port Angeles, were deployed to the scene.

A member of the Swinomish Tribe, whose husband is a member of the Swinomish Tribe’s council, reported at 11:35 a.m. that all canoes and pullers participating in the Journey have been accounted for and are OK.

Canoes departed Port Townsend in fog early Monday en route to Sequim and the territory of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe. Canoes visit Elwha July 23 and 24, Pillar Point July 25, Neah Bay July 26, Ozette July 27, La Push July 28 and 29, Hoh River July 30, Queets July 31, and Taholah Aug. 1. The Quinault Nation reportedly expects 86 canoes to arrive on its shores and will host canoe pullers and canoe families Aug. 1-7.

On Q13 Fox:

Videos we like from past Canoe Journeys

July 17th, 2013 at 11:10 am by rwalker
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Here are some videos we like from earlier Canoe Journeys.

This video is from the 2011 Canoe Journey/Paddle to Swinomish by former Herald staff writer Tiffany Royal, now of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. paddle-to-swinomish-2011-5439514

This video is from the 2009 Canoe Journey/Paddle to Suquamish. watch?v=dhp_MFa6o6c

More than 1,000 visitors expected at Little Boston during Canoe Journey

July 17th, 2013 at 10:58 am by rwalker
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LITTLE BOSTON — More than 1,000 visitors are expected at Little Boston as the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe hosts visiting canoe families participating in the 2013 Canoe Journey/Paddle to Quinault.

Canoes are expected to begin arriving at Point Julia in the early afternoon July 20, but that may change depending on weather conditions and other variables, according to Tribe spokeswoman Ginger Vaughan.

The general public is invited to experience the canoe arrivals at Point Julia.

For the past several months, members of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe’s Canoe Family have been practicing for the annual Canoe Journey. They will join the Journey on July 20 when other canoes land at Point Julia after spending the night at Suquamish. Before coming ashore, each canoe will request permission in an ancient protocol that celebrates Tribal culture and denotes respect.

In the evening, the Port Gamble S’Klallam will host a clam bake and seafood feast for the visiting families. Throughout the night, each visiting canoe family will honor traditional protocols and present songs and dances in the House of Knowledge. Community members and Tribe staff will be working the entire event to provide good hospitality to ensure guests have access to showers, laundry, meals, and transportation.

The canoes will launch from Little Boston on July 21 on their way to Port Townsend. The Journey will end on Aug. 1 at the Quinault Indian Nation.

You can help during the 2013 Canoe Journey/Paddle to Quinault

July 17th, 2013 at 10:10 am by rwalker
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Suquamish Olalla Neighbors is extending an invitation to the community to be a part of the 2013 Canoe Journey/Paddle to Quinault:

The Suquamish Tribe is inviting the larger community to bring desserts July 19 for the hosting of canoe families as part of the annual Canoe Journey. Please bring a dessert of any kind (large quantities are good!) to the House of Awakened Culture in downtown Suquamish between 4:30 and 6 p.m. on Friday. If you get there early, you can see the canoes pull in!

Please spread the word!

Also, the Quinault Nation is “desperately seeking volunteers” to help with hosting the thousands of people who will arrive on Aug. 1. The following link directs you to the volunteer page from the Canoe Journey website:

The Quinault Nation is also seeking the use of shuttle buses to meet their transportation needs during the Journey. If you have one that is available to loan, please let them know.

Thanks for helping out. Please spread the word!

Suquamish Olalla Neighbors
Contact: Karen Platt for time and drop off info. 206-310-6096, or email SON.

Tana Stobs will take southern route in Canoe Journey/Paddle to Quinault

July 16th, 2013 at 9:53 am by rwalker
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This year’s Canoe Journey/Paddle to Quinault will be a sentimental journey of sorts for Tana Stobs Canoe Family member Joey Holmes.

Holmes, 21, the education and docent facilitator for the Suquamish Museum, is enrolled at the Confederated Tribes of Grande Ronde. This year, Tana Stobs will take the Canoe Journey’s southern route, traveling in Grande Ronde territory from Champoeg State Heritage Area on the Willamette River, north through downtown Portland, to the Columbia River. The canoe will be trailered from Ilwaco to Willapa Bay, then return to the water for the pull north to Taholah on the reservation of the Quinault Nation.

Holmes said Tana Stobs and its canoe family will drive to Champoeg State Heritage Area on July 20, then resume their journey on July 21.

The Canoe Journey — an annual gathering of Northwest Native canoe cultures — stops in Suquamish July 19 and Port Gamble S’Klallam July 20.

This year’s visits will be more intimate than previous years. Most North Sound and Canadian First Nation canoes are traveling north of Admiralty Inlet en route to the final destination of the Quinault Nation on Washington’s Pacific Coast. North Sound canoe families expected to visit Suquamish include Nooksack, Samish and Swinomish; from South Sound, Muckleshoot, Nisqually, Puyallup, Squaxin, and the family of Canoe Journey founder Emmett Oliver.

Port Gamble S’Klallam will host those canoe families, as well as those from Skokomish. All will proceed from Point Julia, joining other canoes at stops along the northern Olympic Peninsula en route to Taholah on the Pacific Coast. More than 100 canoes are expected to visit Quinault Aug. 1-6.

Canoes will be escorted from Neah Bay to Taholah by the tall ships Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain, commemorating the 225th anniversary of first contact between ships of the United States and the Quinault Nation.

Busy week for Suquamish Chairman Leonard Forsman

July 16th, 2013 at 9:31 am by rwalker
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Suquamish Chairman Leonard Forsman has a busy week.

Forsman flies to Washington, D.C., July 16 and will be sworn in July 18 as a member of the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. He flies back later that day, and will be present July 19 when Suquamish hosts canoes during the 2013 Canoe Journey/Paddle to Quinault. July 20, he’ll be in a canoe, pulling from Suquamish to Port Gamble S’Klallam.

The 2012 Canoe Journey / Paddle to Squaxin will stop at Port Gamble S’Klallam July 20 and Suquamish July 21-22, according to a map posted online after the March 3 canoe skippers’ planning meeting at Muckleshoot.

The Squaxin Island Tribe recently launched, an information and news website for the final stop in the 2012 Canoe Journey. The website will be the main conduit for public information for one of the largest tribal cultural events in the region, according to Leslie Johnson, director of the Squaxin Island Tribe Tourism Department and spokeswoman for the Paddle to Squaxin 2012 Steering Committee.

From a press release by the Squaxin Island Tribe Tourism Department:  The Canoe Journey is an annual intertribal celebration of Pacific Northwest canoe culture and tradition. A different tribe hosts each year. The Squaxin Island Tribe has selected “Teaching of the Ancestors” as the core theme for the 2012 Journey hosting. More than 100 canoes will land at the Port of Olympia on July 29, with thousands of people joining together to welcome each arrival. Canoe families, friends and relatives then move to a celebration and Potlatch Protocol at the Squaxin Island Community, Shelton, July 30 to Aug. 5. The landing and potlatch protocol are open to the public.

For centuries, Pacific Northwest tribal people navigated the waterways in intricately carved dugout canoes. The Salish Sea, the body of water that encompasses Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Strait of Georgia in Canada, was the central force that connected canoe cultures for intertribal communication and trade. But early federal government mandates outlawed many tribal traditions, resulting in ceremonial practices and the art of canoe building and ceremonial practices being nearly lost.

In 1989, the Canoe Journey, originally called “Paddle to Seattle,” was organized as a revival of the canoe culture traditions and the Native American contribution to the Washington State Centennial. Participation in the Canoe Journey has grown to include canoe cultures from Washington, Alaska, Hawaii, Florida, Oregon, Canada, Japan and New Zealand. The Squaxin Island Tribe has reached out to all marine-based indigenous peoples to participate in the 2012 Journey.

2012 Canoe Journey coordinators are working in partnership with the Port of Olympia, City of Olympia, and Thurston and Mason counties and their communities.

Click on the map below to get a full view of Canoe Journey stops and dates in our region.


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