Canoes from Bella Bella, from Ahousaht, from Lummi, from Snoqualmie, from Warm Springs, from throughout the Pacific Northwest were welcomed to shore at Point Grenville, on the Quinault Indian Nation, on August 1, to celebrate Canoe Journey 2013, Paddle to Quinault.
For thousands of years, indigenous people have plied the marine waters of the northwest coast of North America, trading, hunting and sharing knowledge and cultures. Canoe Journey exemplifies how connected this region is – people, salmon, oceans and forests all intertwine across borders. Conservation work must span borders as well.
The Nature Conservancy’s work in this region, which spans Washington, British Columbia and Alaska, is founded in the knowledge that local people are the drivers for conservation. In this edge of our world, communities with solid leadership and a meaningful voice in resource management are taking conservation to the next level.
On the shores of the Quinault Nation, on Washington’s outer coast, Guy Capoeman, Canoe Journey coordinator, and Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinault Nation, welcomed each giant traditional canoe to shore for the final landing. Some had traveled for many days, covering hundreds of miles, to gather here to celebrate indigenous culture.
The theme of this year’s journey, “Honoring our Warriors,” was repeatedly acknowledged, as veterans were honored again and again for their service.
The landing celebration kicked off six days of celebration, of dancing and feasting, sharing stories and reconnecting. And this tradition that goes back thousands of years was livestreamed across the Internet.
Canoe Journey is a wonderful mixture – great hand-carved cedar canoes, with paddlers (called pullers) posting photos and notes to Facebook. Support boats with radios and powerful motors provide a measure of safety, yet the pullers are still challenged and embraced by the ocean.
Alice Rosypskye, 72, was one of the “canoe family” from Bella Bella, a remote village on British Columbia’s central coast. They’d left home 31 days earlier, she said. Powerful waves near Neah Bay capsized the canoe and landed her in the water, but help came quickly, she said. And she paddled again, completing the journey to Point Grenville.
“When I’m on the water I feel close to my ancestors,” she said. “I can look up and see the clouds, I can hear the killer whales.”
Canoe Journey was initiated in 1989 by the Quinault and the people of Bella Bella, British Columbia, to revive the canoe tradition. Learn more about Canoe Journey at paddletoquinault.org.
The Nature Conservancy is partnering with the Quinault Indian Nation to locate and remove wildlife-killing “ghost nets” from Grays Harbor and the Washington coast.