FORKS — The Olympic Natural Resources Center will host a celebration as Viola Penn Riebe gifts her canoe, The Viola, to the center at noon Saturday.
The public is invited to this event at the ONRC, 1455 S. Forks Ave.
The canoe had been on display in the Pioneer Memorial Park in Sequim since 1967, maintained by the Sequim Prairie Garden Club.
Research into the canoe’s ownership was a task taken on by the club’s Priscilla Hudson, as she had wondered for 10 years where the canoe came from and who it had belonged to.
The canoe was removed from the park in April and returned to its owner.
Riebe, a cultural resources specialist and elder with the Hoh Tribe.
Dixie Laubner, one of Riebe’s three daughters, said in April that “faith, a culturally-sensitive local historian and a series of synchronous events have led to the return of the canoe to its rightful owner.”
Kurt Grinnell, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribal Council member released the canoe from the Pioneer Museum and Vince Penn, Quileute tribal member, and others gathered to bless the return, removal and journey of the large hand-carved canoe from the Jamestown S’Klallam territory to its home in the Hoh and Quileute lands.
Three months later at noon Saturday, the canoe, which was made by Riebe’s uncle, William E. “Yum” Penn, will be gifted to the University of Washington’s ONRC as a historic link to strengthen cultural educational connections between the tribes and the College of the Environment’s School of Environmental and Forest Sciences research station, the Olympic Natural Resources Center.
How the canoe came to find its temporary home at the park, home to Sequim’s first cemetery that’s now owned by the city of Sequim and maintained by the Sequim Prairie Garden Club, is a mystery that Hudson helped unravel.
Hudson had written a grant about two years ago to install new shake roof shingles that were protecting a canoe that had been at the park for years. In her research, Hudson found that Cy Frick had donated the canoe to be showcased at the park in the 1960s.
In researching other aspects of the park for visitor tours, Hudson and other garden club members struggled to find the story behind the canoe.
In October 2016, Hudson found a link to the canoe at the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s carving shed, where a story had been passed about a family looking to borrow the canoe for a family reunion, Hudson said.
That story led her to Dixie Laudner, a payroll administrator for the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe — and Viola Riebe’s daughter.
Soon, Hudson was face to face with Riebe.
“We both started crying,” Hudson said in April. “It was wonderful. It caught my heart. I was so blessed to find that family … and more importantly, that it can go back to the family.”
Riebe said then that Penn, the canoe’s carver, was particularly special to her after Penn came to live with her family.
“He was my hero,” she said.
She recalled numerous times visiting the canoe at the Sequim park.
“I knew that was my canoe,” she said. “I prayed. I determined that whatever will be will be. I left it. [I thought], ‘I’m not going to fret about that anymore.’
“Fifty years later, I got the call.”
For information about Saturday’s celebration, call Frank Hanson at the ONRC, 360-374-4556 or email [email protected]