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LocalCanoe Journey

June 1, 2011

July 25 will be a day of pride for the Swinomish Tribe. They are hosting the 2011 Canoe Journey. On that day, First Nations people of the West Coast will paddle in long canoes on the Swinomish Channel near La Conner. The canoe pad­dlers will land at Swadabs Park. Then everyone will gather in three large new buildings. They are in the shape of the tradi­tional hats of the Salish. This will be the start of a seven-day “potlatch”, or giveaway.

The Swinomish are preparing for 120 canoes and thou­sands of guests this year. During the Canoe Journey event, First Nations families will tell stories, dance, and sing in na­tive languages. As good hosts, the Swinomish will cook and serve their traditional foods of fish, crabs, mussels, clams, and salmon—all free of cost.

Visitors can see the canoes of these First Nation tribes. These carved cedar canoes travel on the inland coastal wa­ters of Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon. Each canoe carries family members and friends, usually 10-16 people. Skippers guide the boats. They use landmarks to find their way. The journey is not easy when it is foggy, rainy, or stormy.

The Canoe Journey began in 1989 when Washington State was 100 years old. Nine canoes paddled into Seattle. Since then, the event has grown with many different tribes hosting “The Paddle.” Next year, the Squaxin Island Tribe will host the 2012 Canoe Journey.

Published June 2011

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