Inspiration for summer’s tribal paddle journey: Tse-whit-zen

PORT ANGELES — The climax of the 2005 Tribal Journey in Port Angeles this summer will be inspired by Tse-whit-zen, the Klallam village partially unearthed in construction of the graving yard last year.

Skippers and crews of at least 32 canoes from Washington Native American tribes and Canadian First Nations plan to land at Port Angeles on Aug. 1.

The inspiration for the water-borne pilgrimage, formerly known as the Paddle Journey, will be “The Tse-whit-zen Village Site and Our Ancestral Remains.”

“That’s going to be the canoe journey’s theme,” said Francis Charles, chairwoman of the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe, “reflecting the past and the future and honoring our ancestors.”

The Lower Elwha will host this year’s event.

Canoe skippers from the Peninsula, Puget Sound and Canada gathered Saturday at the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribal Center.

They said they are unsure of where they’ll actually land. Choices include the mouth of the Elwha River on the reservation, hard to navigate because of the river bar, and Hollywood Beach, site of the Y’Innis ancestral village for which Ennis Creek is named.

The cedar vessels might rendezvous at the Rayonier Inc. pier before making a formal landing.

Activities on reservation

Activities will continue through Aug. 6 at the Lower Elwha reservation west of Port Angeles, where canoe crews may camp. As many as 50 vendors of Native American art, music and food also will set up booths on the reservation’s baseball field.

Parking for canoe trailers and recreational vehicles will be provided at the Lower Elwha Health Clinic on U.S. Highway 101. The host tribe also will provide full-time security for moored canoes and their support boats.

Tribes attending Saturday’s briefing included the Bella Bella, Hoh River, Jamestown S’Klallam, Lower Elwha Klallam, Lummi, Makah, Muckleshoot and Nisqually.

Also, the Port Alberni, Quileute, Samish, Snohomish, Snoqualmie, Sooke, Squamish, Squaxin Island, Skokomish, Suquamish, Tulalip and Umatilla.

From all directions

Skippers from Washington west coast tribes and First Nations from western Vancouver Island will converge at Neah Bay as early as July 23 for their journey into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Likewise, the Lummi near Bellingham and the Tulalip tribes near Marysville will gather canoes from northern Puget Sound. The Muckleshoot tribe will serve as a staging point in the Seattle area.

Linda Wiechman and Darryl Barkley, two of the Lower Elwha coordinators, urged other tribes to donate fish, shellfish, berries and elk and deer meat to the host tribe for meals during the gathering.

Ring Ceremony

Phil Redeagle of Nisqually promised a Ring Ceremony during the event. Canoe crew members receive copper rings to which they add beads for each Paddle Journey they make, a tradition that started nine years ago with the Circle Journey.

The ceremony won’t be the only tradition observed at the celebration, not with its focus on Tse-whit-zen.

There, archaeologists have found ancestral remains and artifacts as much as 2,700 years old. The village has been described as the largest find of its kind in the Pacific Northwest.

Mary McQuillen, a member of the Makah tribe who lives in Port Townsend, said, “When we go on the water, we hear the voices of our ancestors. Their songs heal us.

“That place [Tse-whit-zen] where the old ones are, there are many songs there. When your heart is where it belongs, those songs come back to you.”

McQuillen dismissed Port Angeles city and civic leaders, including Mayor Richard Headrick, who have faulted the Lower Elwha for ending construction of the huge onshore dry dock on the site.

“It is our ancestors’ wisdom that we try to carry forth to our young people,” she said.

“Through their wisdom, we stand stronger than all the mayors of this town.”

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