A spiritual journey: 310 miles from ancestral waters to the Pacific Ocean

westward journey:  Young members of the N’chi Wanapum family of Warm Springs are pictured here on a practice trip earlier this year west of Celilo Village.

westward journey: Young members of the N’chi Wanapum family of Warm Springs are pictured here on a practice trip earlier this year west of Celilo Village.

A journey has begun where youth and elders grow together developing leaders, revitalizing indigenous cultural knowledge, and really, becoming a family. N’chi Wanapum is a Native Community Canoe Family based on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation where students and teachers learn from each other in a circle of kinship. Their two- to three-week journey, Tribal Community to Community by Way of The Canoe, is a forever life-changing experience for participants.

It starts July 18 and includes stops in Celilo Village, Hood River and Cascade Locks July 19-21, with opportunities for the public to meet the participants, and learn about the journey and its purpose (see schedule).

2013 Canoe Journey Schedule

(Exact times are subject to change)

July 18 — Rock Creek Longhouse

July 19 — Celilo Village

July 20 — Hood River

July 21 — Cascade Locks

July 22 — Fort Vancouver

July 23 — St. Helens

July 24 — West Longview

July 25 — Skamokawa

July 26 — Chinook Point

July 27 — Bay Center

July 28-29 — Shoalwater Bay

July 30 — Ocean Shores Marina

July 31 — Quinault Indian Nation

“N’chi Wanapum sincerely invites you and your families to attend Canoe Journey. Canoe families and Native Nations unite from throughout the Northwest to partake in this monumental event. You will have the honor in witnessing a journey of spirituality and ceremony as we reintroduce the canoe to our people of Warm Springs,” said advisor Jefferson Greene.

The journey is filled with cultural and moral teachings, spirituality, personal healing and growth, according to Greene.

Starting in 1989 with five canoes, the Canoe Journey has grown to near 100 Tribal Canoes annually from throughout the Northwest and beyond.

N’chi Wanapum will depart from their ancestral waters of the Columbia Gorge July 18 and land on the western Washington ocean shores of the Quinault Indian Nation July 31, after 310 miles. Landing will be followed by a week of cultural exchange and feasting amongst the hundreds of tribes in attendance.

“When I first heard of Canoe Journey, I didn’t think it would be a big deal; but once I participated in practices and activities along with it, it let me see life in a different way. It showed me how important family is and also things don’t come easy in life,” said L. Ike-Lopez, 16, of Canoe Journey 2012.

Columbia River Gorge tribes of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation referred to the sacred place as We’Mu; (Kiksht), N’Chi Wana (Ichishkin), and Pabahuudu (Numu).

Relocation in 1855 from the Columbia River Gorge to reservations left thousands-year-old works of art like carvings, basketry, pottery, petroglyphs, structures and canoes among many others along the river where they had resided for thousands of years. One hundred and fifty years later in 2009, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs acquired a 36-foot canoe, which received the name N’chi Wana in March 2010 and currently rests at the Museum at Warm Springs. The intent is to revitalize cultural history and practices and share such education with generations amidst a circle of sobriety and prevention. The N’chi Wanapum Canoe Family has journeyed to the Native Nations of the Makah (2010), Swinomish (2011) and Squaxin Island (2012).

This year, 2013, will be Warm Springs’ fourth Journey, its third year in existence, and the need for help continues to grow.

N’chi Wanapum is fundraising once again to partake in the life-changing experience. N’chi Wanapum’s participation has grown consistently from 39 people in 2010 to 79 in 2012.

It is still the fastest-growing project on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. Sixty-four of the Canoe Family members have attained Cold Water Safety and Rescue Training and community participation has grown to over 225 in only three years. This year’s journey will require vehicles for 80 members.

The funds and assets to sustain such a growing group of youth and elders have not been able to keep up with the growth. Cultural gifts and donations are exchanged along the journey amongst host communities and nations followed by their largest giveaway at their final destination. Financial gifts to the project may be made through the project’s fiscal sponsor The Museum At Warm Springs, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Donations are tax-deductible.

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