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Ahousaht, Muckleshoot, Semiahmoo and Sliammon Host Canoe Journeys

The Ahousaht, Muckleshoot, Semiahmoo and Sliammon will host canoe journeys this year, as Pacific Northwest tribes in Canada and the U.S. gather.

Canoe families from the eastern Salish Sea will travel to Golden Gardens Park in Ballard, a Seattle neighborhood, in one of four Canoe Journeys planned this summer.

Canoe families will arrive at Golden Gardens on August 5 and will be hosted by the Muckleshoot Tribe.

The first stop will be July 30 at Birch Bay, followed on July 31 at Lummi Nation, August 1 at Samish Nation, August 2 at Swinomish, August 3 at Tulalip, August 4 at Suquamish and August 5 at Golden Gardens.

The Ahousaht First Nation presents a Canoe Journey in its territory annually to, according its website, “bring the youth, parents and elders out to show our territory and where we come from and what each part of the territory means and what it is about, [and] what has been done in each place.” The journey also promotes a healthy, alcohol- and drug-free lifestyle. Organizers expect this year’s journey to take place in August.

The Semiahmoo First Nation will host the annual Pulling Together Canoe Journey July 2–11 (this journey has taken place in B.C. since 2001). The journey will start at the Sts’ailes First Nation (Harrison Lake) and will continue down the Fraser River from to Semiahmoo Bay.

The Sliammon First Nation will host an Honoring Our Youth Canoe Journey for First Nations on the coasts of Vancouver Island and mainland B.C. Canoe families will travel down the coast of Vancouver Island and across to Powell River, arriving at Willingdon Beach on July 17. Two days of cultural celebrations will follow on July 18–19.

This is the 23rd year of the annual Canoe Journey, a gathering of Northwest indigenous nations. The annual journey was sparked by the Paddle to Seattle in 1989, which was organized by educator Emmett Oliver, Quinault, as part of the State of Washington’s centennial celebration. Since that first journey, the canoe trip has grown to include more than 100 canoes and has welcomed the participation of people from other indigenous canoe cultures, including Ainu from Japan, Inuit from Alaska and Greenland, and Indigenous Peoples from Brazil and Mexico.

Canoe pullers—“pullers,” not “paddlers,” is the preferred term because of the pulling motion on the paddle—travel great distances, as their ancestors did, so participating in the journey requires physical and spiritual discipline. At each stop, canoe families follow certain protocols: They ask for permission to come ashore, often in their indigenous languages, and at night in longhouses there is gifting, honoring and the sharing of traditional songs and dances. Meals, including evening dinners of traditional foods, are provided by the host nations.

It’s not the first time that multiple journeys have taken place. Here’s a list of past and upcoming Canoe Journeys. Multiple journeys are noted with an asterisk.

1989: Seattle

1993: Bella Bella, B.C.

1994: Youth Paddle to Olympia (in connection with the Cedar Tree Conference)

1995: Full Circle Youth Paddle (Puget Sound)

1996: Full Circle Youth Paddle (Puget Sound)

1997: LaPush

1998: Puyallup

1999: Ahousaht, B.C.

2000: Songhees*

2000: Pendleton, Oregon*

2001: Squamish, B.C.

2002: Quinault

2003: Tulalip

2004: Chemainus, B.C.

2005: Elwha Klallam

2006: Muckleshoot (Auburn)

2007: Lummi

2008: Cowichan, B.C.

2009: Suquamish

2010: Makah

2011: Swinomish

2012: Squaxin

2013: Quinault*

2013: Warm Springs Canoe Project (Rock Creek to Quinault)*

2014: Bella Bella

2015: Muckleshoot (Ballard)*

2015: Ahousaht*

2015: Semiahmoo*

2015: Sliammon*

2016: Nisqually

2017: Sliammon