Coupeville meets, fetes, canoeists on Camano Island

A town tradition of cooking dinner for participants in the annual Native American canoe journey is going to be different this year.

Rather than prepare dinner for the hundreds of Native Americans stopping in Coupeville on their tribal journey through Puget Sound, Coupeville  volunteers will travel to Camano Island July 25 to give fruit and refreshments to participating canoeists.

Mayor Nancy Conard highlighted the change in plans during a March 22 Town Council meeting. Apparently, because the tribal journey destination in 2011 is Swinomish located near Anacortes, organizers felt there would be too many canoes for the town to handle, Conard said.

She said between 20 and 30 canoes have been passing through Penn Cove each year. Because the 2011 journey destination is so close, that number could well double this year.

“This has been a wonderful cultural exchange program,” Conard said.

However, organizers did give the town several options to participate in this year’s event. The week-long canoe journey involves tribal members from throughout the Puget Sound region and Canada. Participants will paddle from their home tribal land to the Swinomish Tribe.

The town had the suggested option of either preparing breakfast for the paddlers at the Tulalip Reservation near Marysville, or provide refreshments to weary canoeists on Camano Island as they make the 10-hour trip to Swinomish.

“We would be doing this as a way to support the Swinomish,” Conard said.

Council members were concerned that the town may make preparations for the canoeists only to have them paddle by. Conard said the participants will be informed of the town’s preparations.

She assumed the town would have to make preparations to serve approximately 750 people and the refreshments would cost no more than $2,000.

The town hasn’t decided where to meet the canoe journey participants on Camano. It’ll probably either Cama Beach State Park or Utsalady Point.

Native Americans next year are expected to visit Coupeville. Next year’s destination is Squaxin Island in Mason County.

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