Makah welcome Tribal Canoe Journey to Neah Bay (***Gallery***)

NEAH BAY — The summer breeze blowing off Neah Bay on Monday was the last obstacle for 86 canoe teams at the end of the 2010 Tribal Canoe Journey.

Each canoe looped in front of a sun-splashed beach, which was packed with several thousand onlookers, in a four-hour landing ceremony.

The canoes then anchored to a rope about 50 yards offshore to prepare for the traditional protocol.

A member of each canoe team asked the Makah for permission to come ashore, as is tradition.

Billed as the “Paddle to the Beginning of the World,” the annual journey now culminates in a weeklong celebration on the Makah Reservation.

More than 50 tribes

More than 50 Pacific Northwest tribes and Canadian First Nations will share songs and dances at Neah Bay High School.

Tribes from the Pacific Coast of Washington, including the Quinault, Quileute and Hoh, followed the Makah tribe’s Parker family escort canoe to the staging area at 3:30 p.m.

“We’re glad you’re here,” said Joe McGimpsy, who welcomed each canoe on the public address system.

“Thank you for your journeys here today.”

Coastal canoes were followed by canoes from inland tribes, including the Lummi, Suquamish, Nisqually, Nooksack, Muckleshoot and Tulalip.

A Jamestown S’Klallam canoe made its initial pass about 3:45 p.m.

Three Lower Elwha Klallam canoes — including the “Pink Paddle” healing canoe intended to raise breast cancer awareness — arrived shortly after 4 p.m.

The Salish canoes came ashore at 6:45 p.m.

“It has been an honor to travel in your sacred waters,” said Phil Charles, skipper of the Lower Elwha Klallam Lightning canoe.

Rose Wilson, a 14-year breast cancer survivor, asked the Makah for permission to land before a puller in the Pink Paddle released four pink balloons in honor of breast cancer victims.

100 dance in formation

Before the canoes landed, about 100 female Makah dancers, young and old, danced in a line formation on the beach as the onlookers joined in welcoming songs while sitting on bleachers, logs and the sand.

Maria Parker Pasqua, a Makah language expert and teacher, spoke to the pullers in the Makah language.

Trial Chairman Michael Lawrence then recited her words in English.

“On behalf of the people of the cape, I am honored for your presence,” Lawrence said from atop a longhouse built for the Tribal Journey.

“Our tribe has suffered great loss. On behalf of the tribe and the families that have suffered these losses, we have been given the direction to carry on — carry on and make our people proud — and that’s what we’re going to do.

“The Makah tribe has long been rich in is culture and has carried on our rich songs and dances, even when the government attempted to tell us to no longer practice our cultural ways.”

He was referring to the controversy surrounding a successful Makah whale hunt in 1999.

Vice Chairman Nathan Tyler described the Canoe Journey as a “historic” event for the Makah.

“We share many of our songs and dances during our annual Makah Days celebration, which in 2010 will mark the 86th year of this event,” Lawrence said.

“The last several decades have been witness to significant events historical to the Makah tribe. The Ozette dig from 1970 to SSRq81; the establishment of the Makah Cultural and Research Center was a direct result of this Ozette dig.

“The significant 1974 Boldt decision that shaped our livelihood today, and the first successful whale hunt in over 70 years, which acknowledged an already strong culture.”

“With Tribal Journeys 2010, another page in the history is written. We are thrilled that we are a part of history with you, and overwhelmed by the amount of growing participation that Tribal Journeys is witnessed to each year.

“We, the Makah tribe, honor your attendance,” Lawrence continued.

“We welcome your songs and dances. We invite you to share a meal with us.

“We encourage you to keep your traditions alive and your culture strong.”


Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-417-3537 or at

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