PORT TOWNSEND — The Tribal Canoe Journey means a lot to Howeeshata.
“My grandmother envisioned this in the 70s and it was the grandkids that really carried out her dreams,” he said as canoes from several area tribes arrived at Fort Worden on Monday afternoon as part of the Power Paddle to Puyallup.
Howeeshata, 64, has been the hereditary chief of the Quileute Tribe since 1957.
His friend, Tom Jackson, 71, is from the Hoh Tribe.
“We started out with one canoe in 1976 and she had that envisioned. It was a non-hosted journey then. We paddled from La Push to Neah Bay. From that one canoe in 1976, now you can see how many canoes there are,” said Howeeshata.
When they left Port Angeles with members of the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe, there were 32 canoes from Washington coast tribes or Canadian First Nations. They picked up about 10 more Monday, including more from Canada, arriving to a welcome from the area’s Klallam tribes.
As the day progressed, tribal canoes and pullers started filling up the beach, and the sounds of many Native languages filled the air. After securing their canoes, tribes joined in prayer circles and gave thanks for their safe journeys. The ages ranged from as young as 10 to the tribal elders who have made the journey many times.
“The tribal journey — it moves a lot of people,” he said. “We all get together and share our cultures. We land and ask permission to come ashore. We break bread. We talk and tell stories. We learn their cultures and who they are as individuals. Some less … some more.”
“We’re the teachers, Tom Jackson and myself, Howeeshata.”
Howeeshata said they brought two canoes, the Sea Wolf and the Well-Being.
The Sea Wolf had only kids ages 11 to 18 in it. The Well-Being, or DASA, was filled with only members who were clean and sober. DASA means drug and alcohol substance abuse.
The Tribal Canoe Journey began as a way to promote drug- and alcohol-free lifestyles and expanded to a cultural celebration in 1999.
The Tribal Canoe Journey travels to a different host tribe each year. The inter-tribal event began in 1989 as the “Paddle to Seattle” to mark the state’s centennial.
After an overnight in Port Townsend at their campsite at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds, Jackson and Howeeshata will cross Puget Sound and visit the Mukleshoot Tribe.
A week-long protocol celebration for the 2018 Tribal Canoe Journey will be held in Puyallup beginning Saturday. More than 100 canoe teams from the Pacific Northwest and Canada were registered for the culminating event.
“The Puyallup Tribe will host and greet us all on July 28. We’ll be there though August 4. They’ll untie everyone’s canoes and then we all can can go home.”
This part of the journey will be easier on Howeeshata.
“We’ll probably drive home,” he said, laughing. “It will take about four hours.”
Pilot Jim Piper took Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken on a flight for some of the photos seen with this report.
McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected].