July 28, 2012: Inter-Tribal Paddle to Squaxin Island 2012

Each summer since 1982, Indian Canoe Nations of the Northwest have joined together for a water journey in traditional canoes to preserve traditional culture and promote unity.  The tribe that “hosts” the event rotates annually, as does the trip’s terminus, which always occurs near the home of the host nation.   This year’s paddle was hosted by the Squaxin People, whose tribal land is on a finger of the Puget Sound about 45 minutes north and west of Olympia.

This year’s paddle consisted of over 100 traditional canoes.  Some tribes send more than one canoe, and other tribes join together in intertribal canoes.  Some of the canoes travel many hundreds of miles to participate; some from Canada; others from Oregon.  Participation requires tremendous commitment to endure the grueling endless days of rowing.

The paddle began in early June, and has been slowly making its way to Olympia; the nations landed here today.  One of the things the Squaxin, as hosts, requested of the other nations was that each bring a cup of water from their native place to co-mingle with the waters of the South Puget Sound in a Healing of the Waters ceremony.  The ceremony will continue for the next 5 days at on the land of the Squaxin people, with each nation singing and drumming their traditional songs, and ending with protocol and potlatch (give-away & honoring) ceremonies.

A co-worker of Callie’s at Washington A.O.C. told us about the event several weeks ago, and Callie and I had made plans to go down to the Port of Olympia – but then found out that it would be us and about 10.000 other people who were expected to attend.  Yikes!

To our good fortune, Callie’s co-worker Myra and her husband Joe have a nice 33′ sailboat anchored in Olympia and they graciously invited us to join them, along with their friends Jack and Becky from Eugene, Oregon, to sail up the South Sound to the area a few miles north where the canoes were slated to arrive for final staging prior to the landing in Olympia.  We had a simply marvelous time, and got to see the canoes in their element – on the water – rather than from the bleachers set up for the crowds in Olympia.

Here are some of the best pictures I took today.  Remember that you can click on any image to enlarge it to full size.

Just underway:

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Co-skipper Myra on the bow:

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Canoes arrive for staging prior to landing in Olympia on the last leg of the journey:

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Canoe Nations:

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After all 100 canoes had arrived and were staged in protocol order, they began the final leg of their journey, paddling to the ceremony at the Port of Olympia.

Here’s a beautiful blue canoe:

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Canoe of tribe down from Canada:

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Note the paddlers wearing traditional woven cedar hats:

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Turquoise Salmon Canoe:

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On the way back in to Olympia, Skipper Joe piloted the boat to a channel where logs are waiting to be loaded for export that is favored by local seals as a place to loll about enjoying the summer sun.   Here are some pictures…

The local inhabitants find their interest piqued:

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A baby seal waves a greeting in our direction:

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As we approached the Port of Olympia, a massive cargo ship put out from its mooring and headed toward the sea.  Here are a couple pictures…

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Shortly afterward, Skipper Joe deftly backed the boat into its slip at the Olympia Yacht Club and we capped our day on the water with an excellent meal at the Oyster House, a favorite local seafood place.  We were all famished, and banishing hunger was of the first order, so no pictures of our convivial meal.

New friends, a day on the water, honoring traditional culture, and a great meal to top it all off… what more could we ask for?

Honey in the Heart!

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