Coupeville Water festival honors tribe history

The Penn Cove Water Festival honors Native Americans. The annual event kicks off Saturday in Coupeville. - File photo
The Penn Cove Water Festival honors Native Americans. The annual event kicks off Saturday in Coupeville.
— image credit: File photo

The Penn Cove Water Festival welcomes Native American canoe clubs to race on Saturday, May 18, for the 22nd annual celebration at the Coupeville Wharf.

Held in downtown Coupeville, the festival allows guests to relive history while honoring ancestors and those who first hosted the festival in the 1930s. The event was an annual affair until it was cancelled during World War II and then resumed 21 years ago.

“The festival celebrates Native American canoe races and is a Whidbey legacy,” said operations manager Teresa Ellis.

The races are reminiscent of native competitions of the past, fostering a spirit of neighborliness throughout history. Tribal people living on Whidbey Island enjoyed the camaraderie of racing against neighboring tribes.

The Water Festival promotes the continuation of this tradition.

Tribal representation will come in the form of presentations of oral history by Elder Rosie James, Samish nation cultural development coordinator, and storytelling by Lou LaBombard, professor of anthropology and Native American history at Skagit Valley College on Whidbey.

There will also be traditional native music played on the violin by Swil Kanim and flute by Peter Ali, music by JP Falcon and performances by the Tshimshain Haayuuk Dancers.

New additions include storytelling and expanded children’s activities, including youth activities for adolescents.


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