Canoe Journey is a ritual that encompasses great healing, hope, happiness, honor and hospitality. The Journey began with nine canoes as the “Paddle to Seattle” in 1989. As in ancient times, the paddlers can take weeks to reach their destination. The celebration has been reawakening indigenous Native American and First Nation cultures through their first potlatch (official feast for guests) since 1937.
Purpose of the ritual
The Canoe Journey seeks to honor the centuries-old custom of transport, harvest and trade. The arrival is a grand ritual, marked by drumming, dance and song. Tribal elders and leaders proclaim their common history, renew alliances or seek to start fresher, stronger ones. Tribes proclaim their mutual respect and need for each other.
Relationships are strengthened, family ties are renewed and young and old gather together during this drug- and alcohol-free event. Elders believe that through canoe-pulling, a tribe achieves perfect harmony and balance.
Great healing occurs.
It is one of the deeply tragic ironies of history that European explorers failed to comprehend the protocol of welcoming and tradition of generosity deeply embedded in Northwest Coast Native culture at the time of historic contact. The arrival of strangers on the shore was a common occasion.
Differences of language and dress were accounted for in the welcoming protocol. Enemy and friend could be accommodated in dignity and generosity.
In the common gesture of an open hand, a polite request and the display of humble need, Europeans might have built on the common bond they had as seafaring people. As guests, and not as conquerors, the newcomers might have found their place in ‘the New World’ as co-inhabitants on these shores.
“Five hundred years of history will not be unwritten, but the lessons still apply. We are all here together. Our lives are now inextricably intertwined. In a grand sense, we share the shores and we share the canoe.
And as we learn together, we rediscover a basic language — a protocol — both humble and generous, of journeying together.”
From NOAA Ocean Explorer by Robert Steelquist “The ‘journey’ is an opportunity to teach prevention through our culture,” explains Herman Williams Jr., tribal council chairman of the Tulalip Tribes. “It brings self-esteem and reminds us all where we come from.”
The Warm Springs Canoe Project (N’chi Wanapum) is for Native American youth of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation to connect with, interact, and bond with their adult community in a positive way that inspires, encourages and empowers one another.
The N’chi Wanapum project is to be led by Native American Youth of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation while adults and young adults will serve as the advisors to encourage a sustainable and empowering project for generations to follow.