DON’T FORGET THE WATER: PADDLE TO NISQUALLY CANOE JOURNEY 2016
The Olympia Food Co-op is honored to be counted among the sponsors of the 2016 Canoe Journey, hosted by the Nisqually Tribe, taking place this summer from July 30th through August 6th. The event is an inter-tribal celebration reviving the practice of traveling by canoe and maintaining relationships between the tribes of the Pacific Northwest Coast, with over 10,000 people expected to attend throughout event. The Journey began in 1989 with the Paddle to Seattle, with over 20 Journeys taking place in the subsequent years. The event seeks to maintain relationships and establish cultural exchange between the tribes, and to restore knowledge of canoe making and pulling, “bringing together natives and non-natives with a common goal of providing a drug and alcohol free event and offering pullers a personal journey towards healing and recovery of culture, traditional knowledge and spirituality,” according to the Journey’s website.
A wide variety of tribes and nations from the Pacific Northwest region will join in the Journey, pulling carved and painted canoes hundreds of miles, stopping at tribal lands along the way to participate in landing ceremonies and exchanges of food, dance, and storytelling. During the Journey, “canoe families travel great distances as their ancestors did and participating in the journey requires physical and spiritual discipline. At each stop, canoe families follow certain protocols. They ask for permission to come ashore, often in their native languages. At night in longhouses there is gifting, honoring and the sharing of traditional prayers, drumming, songs and dances. Meals including evening dinners of traditional foods are provided by the host nations,” according to the site. The Journey continues through the Salish Sea to the final landing destination where they will be welcomed by the host tribe. As a Nisqually Community Garden Steward describes, “there is singing and dancing that takes place, Usually the canoe family of the furthest nation gets to sing and dance first, but each host tribe does things differently…these decisions are run from respect for their visitors, [since they] need to rest.”
Since 1994, the Nisqually Tribe has participated in the yearly Canoe Journey, and is the host tribe for this year’s Journey, Paddle to Nisqually, with boats landing at the Port of Olympia on July 30th. The host tribe provides food for the guest nations, and closes the Journey with a week long potlatch, a feast during which gifts are exchanged among the tribes. The theme of the 2016 Canoe Journey is “Don’t Forget the Water,” from the Nisqually Mountain Story which tells the story of the Pacific Northwest Cascade Range, including the highest mountain, Mt. Rainier, and how the water of the rivers come from the mountain. Billy Frank, Sr., a Nisqually tribal member and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Honor, dedicated his life to the treaty fishing rights cause, seeking to hold the U.S. government accountable to the Medicine Creek Treaty of 1854, which reserves the right of members of tribal nations in western Washington to fish without impunity in the waters of the area, such as the Nisqually River. He passed away on May 5th, 2014 and his life and legacy will be celebrated in a ceremony during the Canoe Journey.
The Olympia Food Co-op, in collaboration with the Nisqually Community Garden, featured a class on making Herbal First Aid Kits for the Canoe Journey on May 22nd. Carlin Briner, the Production Supervisor of the garden, explained, “the Nisqually Community Garden exists as an extension of tribal sovereignty and supports community, family, and individual health. Our guiding values are rooted in the traditional and cultural values of the Nisqually Tribe. These values also guide the Tribe’s participation in the Canoe Journey”. Participants in the Herbal First Aid Kit class learned to make herbal remedies from plants harvested from the Nisqually Community Garden, which will be useful in the upcoming season of outdoor time and made something to bring home as well as a gift to be shared with the participants of the Canoe Journey. The plants in the Nisqually Community Garden are “gathered with prayer [and] love right here in Nisqually. Some of the skills came from Elders who have walked on into the next life. The knowledge is passed on in our community,” explained a Steward of the garden, “this is Nisqually Culture to give away items, it is very important to us as a People to Honor and Thank those who have traveled to our lands.”
The Olympia Food Co-op, in addition to offering the Herbal First Aid Kit Class and sponsoring the Journey, will be engaging our volunteer base of working members to help out on Landing Day. If you are interested in volunteering during Canoe Journey, sign up at the customer service desk at the Olympia Food Co-op.
Thanks to Grace Ann Byrd, Janell Blacketer, Caitlin Krenn, and Carlin Briner for contributing information about the Canoe Journey for this article.
By Whitney Bard, staff member