Elwha tribal canoe nearly complete

The task of naming the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe’s sleek, new canoe falls to the tribal elders.

But if lead carver Al Charles Jr. has his say, the name would represent what he has been doing all along — living his ancestors’ stories.

For more than two weeks, Charles Jr. and carvers Darrell Charles and Harry Moon have cut, scraped, smoothed and sculpted a cedar log into the underside of what will soon be a 42-foot oceangoing canoe.

Mixed with the scream of a chain saw’s motor and the banter among community members who come to watch comes the re-creation of what Charles Jr.’s ancestors, canoe people, have done for centuries.

“We’ve heard stories all of our lives,” Charles Jr., 30, said.

“We’ve been living a lot of these stories that were told to us. We’ve been carving the canoes, even though we’re using modern tools and modern equipment.”

Since June 12, when they began building the tribe’s next canoe that will be used in a ceremonial journey later this summer, the men have shaped the vessel’s underside and are ready for the next step.


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