When the salmon swim upstream in September, the Coquille Tribe of Oregon's southwest region share their heritage, culture and traditions over two days of weekend festivities that include a salmon bake dinner and canoe races in Coos Bay.
The Mill Casino Hotel & RV Park in North Bend, Oregon will host the 9th Annual Mill-Luck Salmon Celebration, September 8-9. The once small event has turned into a major attraction as more Native vendors have started to participate, and Native American artisans and musicians from throughout the Western United States and Canada are joining the fun.
In connection with the Salmon Celebration, the host is adding a big star to its line up: Oscar-winning Cree singer and songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie, known for her protest and love songs including "Until Its Time For You To Go"—recorded by Elvis, Barbra Streisand and Cher; her "Universal Soldier", which became the anthem of the peace movement, according to her biography on her website; and "Up Where We Belong"—the theme song from the acclaimed 1982 movie An Officer and a Gentleman.
Buffy Sainte-Marie’s two-dinner concert, held Friday, September 7, and Saturday, September 8, is a ticketed performance. The Salmon Celebration daytime events are free and will take place on the casino’s waterfront dock and in its north parking lot.
Ray Doering, Mill Casino's communications manager, did not want to speculate on how many guests will come this year, but last year, he said, they served some 1,200 dinners in two days and there was also a concert in which Pow Wow Comedy Jam performed.
As in previous years, the celebration will feature the popular canoe races, a traditional salmon bake dinner, cultural exhibits and demonstrations, a Native American marketplace, and children’s activities, said a company press statement.
For the second year running, the festivities will include the 13th Annual Coos Basin Amateur Salmon Derby—sponsored by non-Native community organizations and introduced for its link to the theme of the celebration. Visitors are also anticipated to keep a close eye on the “weight station," which makes the final call on the weight of the largest fish.
For Shirod Younker, a Coquille who resides in Portland—several hundred miles away from North Bend—the two-day festivities are a way to reconnect with his tribe and cousin tribes.
“It is a good way to get our tribal members on the water,” said Younker, who is master of ceremonies and organizer of the canoe races. “It gives us a chance to connect with our cousin tribes who share the canoe culture with us.”