PORT ANGELES — The 2017 Canoe Journey is underway, and tribes from across Washington state and British Columbia are making their way to the Campbell River.
North Olympic Peninsula tribes are joining the annual tradition throughout the next few days.
By the time they reach the end of their journey at the Campbell River on the east coast of northern Vancouver Island on Aug. 5, the Quinault will have been joined by a flotilla of canoes.
From Washington state are canoes from the Makah Tribe, the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe, as well as the Port Gamble S’Klallam, Suquamish, Muckleshoot, Puyallup and Nisqually tribes.
The theme of this year’s Canoe Journey is “Standing Together.”
During the usually annual journey, revolving tribes take turns hosting the destination. This year’s hosts are the We Wai Kai and Wei Wai Kum nations.
Participating tribes leave their own shores in canoes and visit other tribal lands along the way. Before they land, they ask the host tribe or first nation for permission to come ashore.
Landing ceremonies include welcoming songs and are followed by potlatches with meals, storytelling and the further exchange of songs, dances and gifts.
This year, the Hoh Tribe isn’t participating, but tribal members watched the Quinault paddle past Tuesday, said Maria Lopez, tribal chairwoman.
The Quileute Nation is sending one canoe family on the journey Saturday.
“Canoe Journey is a way to recognize and honor our ancestors, the ocean and our traditional way of life. It is also a healing journey for a lot of pullers,” said Chairman Charles “Chas” Woodruff. “It is an important time to bond and reconnect to our culture. We send prayers of safety and well-wishes to all for a successful, enjoyable journey.”
Then they will head north to meet the Makah Tribe in Neah Bay on Saturday and make a stop at Pillar Point on Sunday.
Also on Saturday, canoers from tribes around the Puget Sound are expected to land in Port Townsend.
Lower Elwha Klallam Tribal Chairwoman Frances Charles said the tribes will be welcomed there by the Lower Elwha Klallam, Jamestown S’Klallam and Port Gamble S’Klallam tribes.
Some will head north from Port Townsend, while others will paddle to Port Angeles, she said.
On Monday, the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe will welcome canoers from the coast and from Port Townsend when they land on Hollywood Beach, Frances said.
She said it’s too early to tell when the canoes will arrive in Port Angeles but she’ll have a better idea Monday.
“We have our youth that are practicing for the speeches,” she said, adding that the tribe is also preparing to host a dinner at 6 p.m. at its tribal center.
The welcoming ceremony and dinner are open to the public.
Frances said the tribal elders first got involved with the journey in 1989 and their involvement was an inspiration for the tribe’s youths.
“It brings them to be proud of who they are and their culture,” she said. “It’s something to inspire them to be drug- and alcohol-free, inspire to learn culture and family trees, but also to teach cultural traditional values.”
The next stop after Port Angeles is Esquimalt. Tribes from across Washington and British Columbia are scheduled to meet at Nanoose Bay before traveling together to the Campbell River.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].