PORT ANGELES — Washington’s Coastal tribes this week have started a two-week cultural experience as they participate in the 2019 Intertribal Canoe Journey.
The Paddle to Lummi will include stops — including welcoming ceremonies of songs, dances and potlatches — on North Olympic Peninsula beaches.
The journey for Washington’s coastal tribes started in Queets and stops were planned for Wednesday at the Hoh Tribe, today at the Quileute Tribe, Friday at the Makah Tribe, Saturday at Pillar Point, Sunday and Monday at the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, Tuesday at the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, and Wednesday, July 17 in Port Townsend, according to the Paddle to Lummi website.
The website said the dates are only approximate dates and that weather and other unforeseen circumstances can alter the arrival dates.
This year, canoe families will land at the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe’s reservation on the east side of the Elwha River instead of at Hollywood Beach in Port Angeles.
Tribes from Western Vancouver Island are expected to paddle across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to land at the Elwha River as well.
From there, they will make their way east toward the Puget Sound, before heading north to Lummi.
“Since the dams have been removed, we feel it is time to land our canoes onto our beach,” said Lower Elwha Tribal Chairwoman Frances Charles in an email.
She could not be reached by phone Wednesday.
The National Park Service led a $325 million effort to restore the Elwha River to its natural state with the removal of the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams. The fish-blocking dams were gone by 2014.
Exact times of arrival are not possible, being determined by currents and tides.
It started at the beginning of the month with the Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/Che:k:tles7et’h’ First Nation in Kyuquot, B.C.
The journey culminates as canoes land at the Lummi Nation on July 24. Officials are expecting 10,000 people and more than 100 canoes to land on the tribe’s shores.
With the arrival, the tribe will share in potlatch, traditional song, dance and testimonies.
The inter-tribal event — which travels to a different host tribe each year — began in 1989, organized by Quinault tribal member Emmett Oliver as the “Paddle to Seattle” to mark Washington state’s centennial.
Ron Allen, CEO and chair of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, said the annual journey is a cultural experience for tribal members and is a way to education non-Indian people about the tribes.
“It’s a renaissance of the cultural experience where tribes and canoe families can take part in events, share stories, share common interests and just rejuvenate who they are culturally as unique, distinct peoples representing their nations and helping them to enjoy a cultural experience that helps to educate the youth,” Allen said.
He said tribes will share songs and stories as they experience what it was like for tribes when the Salish Sea was the primary way to travel between tribes.
“It’s a journey that makes a difference in our communities,” he said. “Not everyone gets to participate directly, but others participate vicariously as we share the experience with the rest of the community.”
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].