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Tribal Journeys are canoe trips to our Native past, and future

According to journalist Richard Walker “Emmett Oliver established the Paddle to Seattle, later called Tribal Journeys, in 1989 to ensure Washington's First Peoples were represented in the state's centennial celebration.” The event, according to Walker “Set the stage for the annual Canoe Journey, a revival of Northwest Native canoe cultures that has grown to include the participation of indigenous peoples from Canada, Mexico, Greenland, Japan and Russia.”

The resurgence of the Canoe Nations has created an incoming tide of traditional teachings.
The resurgence of the Canoe Nations has created an incoming tide of traditional teachings.

The year 1989 was an important date in for Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest. On 4 August 1989, as Washington State prepared to celebrate its Centennial, twenty-six federally recognized Native American groups signed the “Centennial Accord” (Centennial Accord between the Federally Recognized Indian Tribes in Washington State and the State of Washington) “This Accord provides a framework for that government-to-government relationship and implementation procedures to assure execution of that relationship.”

It was during this centennial celebration that Emmett Oliver organized “The first modern day tribal canoe journey.” According to Associate Professor and author Susanna A. Hayes “It is very important to note that the Canoe Celebrations that Emmett began with the launch of the Paddle to Seattle in 1989 when the city of Seattle recognized the importance of Native peoples to the early history, social, economic and political growth of the Pacific Northwest continue to thrive.”

In 1993, the Heiltsuk Nation in Bella Bella, BC challenged all canoe nations to travel by canoe to their village and participate in the Qutawas "People gathering together" Festival Twenty-eight canoes answered that challenge. Since that day, the original “Paddle to Seattle” became the Tribal Canoe Journeys, Tribal Journeys or even just “The Paddle.”

Emmett Sampson Oliver was born in South Bend, Washington on 2 December 1913. On the 24th anniversary of “The Paddle”, he was just a few months away from his 100th birthday. According to Richard Walker “On Dec. 7 in Suquamish's House of Awakened Culture, young people sang songs and danced dances they learned while participating in the Canoe Journey.”

The adults according to Walker Talked about the difference the Canoe Journey has made in young people's lives by focusing their attention on traditional teachings and imbuing them with the physical and spiritual discipline required to travel the marine highways of their ancestors.”

Emmett Oliver and his family continue to participate. Journalist Richard writes, “The Oliver family has its own canoe in the Canoe Journey, but family members can be found in several canoes. Oliver was on the beach at Taholah and watched as his 14-year-old grandson, Owen, arrived in the Chinook Nation’s canoe.”

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