CULTURE: Canoe Journey’s successful end celebrated among Northwest Coast tribes

Posted on August 3rd, 2010 by americanindiannews in Past News, Recent News

Neah Bay, Wash.—The Journey to Makah: Journey to the Beginning of the World concluded early on the morning of July 25, the completion of a canoe journey that some of its 10,000 Native participants began three weeks earlier, paddling from as far as Southeast Alaska and Northern Vancouver Island in British Columbia to the westernmost point in the continental United States.

Photo by Freddy Lane of the Lummi - Tribe A woman stands on the beach at Neah Bay, Wash., home of the Makah Nation, as her canoe family recites its protocol, asking permission of the host nation to come ashore from the 19th annual Canoe Journey of the Coast Salish Nations and their relatives on the Pacific Coast.

The annual Canoe Journey began in 1989 and has occurred every year since 1993. Each year a different Indian nation among the Coast Salish has hosted, with canoes from all nations crossing internal and territorial borders to join together on the water highways of their ancestors. Landing at Neah Bay, the point of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington, where the Pacific Ocean meets the recently named Salish Sea, canoe families waited their turn to declare their intentions in coming ashore, a protocol as old as the practice of paddling carved cedar canoes on these waters.

Many of the pullers in the canoes are young people from the nations, who train with their elders year-round, forming what’s called a canoe family, and learning songs while building their physical endurance.

Oren Lyons, Faith Keeper, Turtle Clan of the Onondaga Nation, upon witnessing these proceedings three years ago, declared them a display of sovereignty and vibrancy among the Indian nations of the Northwest Coast that all of Indian Country needed to hear about.

At Neah Bay this July 22, Makah language teachers welcomed the canoe families from many nations. Among others on hand were staff members from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, sent to Neah Bay as part of the museum’s Renewing Connections outreach program to Indian Country.

Then Makah Chairman Michael Lawrence translated, “On behalf of the people of the cape, I am honored for your presence….The Makah tribe has long been rich in its culture and has carried on our rich songs and dances, even when the (U.S.) government attempted to tell us to no longer practice our cultural ways.”

The Makah have persisted in participating in the Ozette archaeological site, the remains of a historic village that is considered one of the most important finds in the continental United States; have fished per their treaty and tradition for salmon and halibut among other species of the sustaining sea life of their culture; and mounted a successful whale hunt in 1999, ending a pause of more than 70 years.

American Indian News Service

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