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The Return of the Canoes

PUYALLUP, Wash. - They came to honor the students. They came to help
preserve, celebrate and solidify the cultural heritage that runs deep
within their souls. Canoe families from Tulalip, Squaxin Island, Nisqually,
Muckleshoot and Puyallup, along with the Satiacum Family Canoe and the
newest canoe family from Chief Leschi, recently took part in "Culture Day
2005 - The Return of the Canoes" at Owen Beach in Tacoma, Wash.

Culture teacher Doreen Tallman has taken part in other canoe returns. She
appreciates being able to share in such a meaningful cultural tradition.
"When the canoes start coming in and the songs begin, you feel the energy.
The canoes come to life - you feel it from deep within. It's almost like
the ancestors are talking to you," said Tallman.

Preparing for Culture Day begins months in advance. Tyler Daniel, 13, has
been making necklaces, key chains and Princess Pine giveaway gifts since
school began last September. "It's exciting to see everybody here and watch
the canoes come in. I get butterflies when I see it. It makes me proud to
be Native," said the eighth-grader, who planned on gifting her grandmother
with a special necklace.

As the canoes lined up at the beach, each skipper asked permission to come
to shore using the customary protocol. Tulalip skipper Ray Fryberg said it
was inspiring to hear the welcoming songs and drumming coming from the
beach out on the water. "There is a lot of power here on the shore and on
the water from our ancestors. The sacred canoe builds self-identity and
self-esteem. We praise these good things," Fryberg said.

Chief Leschi student Eric Anderson said he likes learning about his
heritage. "It's kind of cool to learn about protocol," said the
17-year-old, who especially values the Puget Salish language. "My language
is my religion. It has a lot of deep meaning and connection."

As members of the canoe families were welcomed to shore, Chief Leschi
teacher Wayne Cook was beaming about his experience of paddling on the
school's new canoe, called "Spirit of the Wolf Protects." "The canoe was so
light and easy to paddle," said Cook. "We could hear songs from the shore
from a long way out. There was definitely a spirit of goodness. The canoes
remind us of our ancestors and that we all are important."

Each canoe family was invited to take part in traditional songs and dances.
Between performances, students gifted each person with a special item.
Elders and canoe family members were presented with personalized
remembrances.

Remembering is key to Culture Day. Whether it's a child in kindergarten
witnessing her first canoe experience or a senior about to embark on life
after high school, connecting to the past is seen as vital to life ahead.
Said paddler Wayne Cook, "The canoe will help young people realize a
bonding with their ancestors, their family and a future."