The annual Tribal Canoe Journey is a challenging event that heightens and strengthens culture awareness for the Native people of the Pacific Northwest, according to journalists Sarah Vaira and Katie Campbell. “The tribal canoe journey is an annual celebration that recognizes the cultural importance of canoe travel to indigenous people.” In addition, “The event shares native art, culture and history as well as brings tribes together from around the region to celebrate their heritage and share songs, dance and food.”
Last year during the Paddle to Quinault, “More than 10,000 people took part in the six-day cultural and spiritual celebration at Quinault, sharing songs, dances and traditional wisdom passed down through generations.” According to Justin Finkbonner, a Lummi canoe skipper, “It’s one of the closest things that brings me to my ancestors. We travel our ancestors’ highways, so when it’s foggy, or it’s raining or it’s really hot, we can really hear them. It’s just magical moments out there for everybody.”
According to Vaira and Campbell, “The first modern day tribal canoe journey was organized by Quinault elder Emmett Oliver in 1989 on the 100th anniversary of the Centennial Accord which recognized sovereignty for tribes in Washington state.” The historic voyage caught the interest of other Washington and Canadian tribes as an opportunity to heighten interest in Native American culture, art and history among both tribal members and the public.
The Heiltsuk Nation in Bella Bella, British Columbia will host the 2014 Tribal Canoe Journey from July 13 to July 19 on Campbell Island.