Toi Māori Aotearoa representatives Piripi Taylor and Kevin Harrison, also of Māori Television’s Te Ao Māori news have begun their journey in the 2019 Tribal Journeys – Paddle to Lummi.
After landing in Seattle, Washington on Friday (NZ time), they travelled east to Aubury to the Muckleshoot Tribal Reservation, where hundreds of canoe families from the southern interior tribes, the Chinook, the Squaxin, the Nisqually and the Puyallup were camped.
There they met their hosts from The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde from Portland, Oregon, who have hosted Toi Māori representatives from Aotearoa in Tribal Canoe Journeys since 2009.
The following day, all crews were bussed to where their canoes were parked for the night, on Alki Beach, west of Seattle, the original lands of the Muckleshoot tribe who hosted this leg.
Tracy from the Cowlitz tribe says “this is a tradition that is in respect of our elders and our ancestors that travelled these waters.”
16 canoes began this part of the journey on July 15 from Squaxin Island, with 4am starts, rain and distances of nearly 30 miles. The paddle from Muckleshoot, where canoe numbers swelled to over 20, was a relatively easy distance of around 15-20kms with flat, sunny conditions.
From Seattle, the fleet paddled to their next destination across the Puget Sound, to Suquamish, the home of the descendants of Chief Seattle.
For two nights, they joined with the many coastal tribes who also converged there, from the Queets in the south to the many canoe families from the tribes of Canada.
Alori Baker from the Squamish tribe of Vancouver acknowledged Chief Seattle. “His grave is just down the road from here. The skipper of our Squamish canoe belongs to that family.“
Guy Lowie from the Ahousaht tribe of Vancouver started out on Canoe Journey 26 years ago to learn about his culture.
“I used to be ashamed of who I was,” he says.
“Tribal journeys took that away from me. I’m proud of my culture now.”
The benefits of participating in canoe journeys is evident.
34yr old Matt Arnett is attending the Canoe Journeys for the first time this year.
“I’ve just found out about my Metis heritage a year and a bit ago. This is pretty special,” he says.
“It’s everything I thought it would be and more.”
Ashley Wilson of Vancouver Island is on her second Tribal Journeys and is working with a group of kids to reconnect them to their culture, roots and traditional ways.
“These are the waters that our ancestors paddled on for hundreds of years. To me it’s about honouring that and carrying on that tradition,” she says.
The hosts for this leg of the journey, the Suquamish are favoured by most canoe families because of the ability to host and their insistence on protocol.
Leonard Forsman, Chairman of the Suquamish tribe says Canoe Journeys has really inspired a cultural resurgence in the community.
“Some of these canoes have been on the water since July 1st and have been on the water for a good two weeks already. They come into our waters and then they bring their drums, they bring their songs and they prepare themselves to represent their canoe families, their nation,“ he says.
Tomorrow all the canoes gathered here will paddle some 30 miles to the Tulalip tribe, edging them 3 legs closer to this year’s overall hosts, the Lummi People of Bellingham.