Sports

Canoe Journey makes a stop in Coupeville

Members of the Chehalis Tribe paddle  their way into Coupeville Thursday afternoon.  They are participating in the Tribal Canoe Journey 2009 that takes place in Suquamish and involves Native Tribes from Northwest Washington and British Columbia. - Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times
Members of the Chehalis Tribe paddle their way into Coupeville Thursday afternoon. They are participating in the Tribal Canoe Journey 2009 that takes place in Suquamish and involves Native Tribes from Northwest Washington and British Columbia.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times

In the midst of boaters leaving Coupeville to catch crab, dozens of canoeists paddled ashore for a visit.

They were members of various tribes scattered throughout Northwest Washington and British Columbia that were participating in the Tribal Canoe Journey 2009. This year Native Americans were paddling their way to the Suquamish Indian Reservation near Poulsbo.

Approximately 30 traveled to Captain Coupe Park Thursday to enjoy a lunch prepared by the town. They were shuttled back and forth from the boat launch to town park. While tribal members were arriving, several boaters were also on hand heading out with their crab pots in tow.

Many of the hundreds of participants started their journey July 25 from Lummi Island and paddled their way down through the Sound.

Patrick Simmons was one of about 50 people from the Chehalis Tribe in Oakville participating in the journey. This year marked the second year he participated.

On Thursday, the Native Americans started their day at the Swinomish Casino and, after lunch, they headed to the Tulalip Tribes near Marysville to camp for the night. Coupeville town officials had planned for tribal members to arrive around 2 p.m. However, they got an early start to take advantage of the tidal conditions and started arriving in Coupeville around 10:30 a.m.

While canoes ventured down Saratoga Passage toward the Suquamish Indian Reservation, other groups, some from as far away as the west coast of Vancouver Island, paddled their way down Admiralty Inlet.

The Swinomish Indian Tribal Community located near Anacortes has two canoes, the Spirit of the Salmon and the Salmon Dancer, each with 20-plus crewmembers, participating in this year’s journey, said Brian Cladoosby, tribal community chair. Tribal members started this year’s journey Saturday in Blaine and plan to arrive in Suquamish Aug. 3 for an event that continues through Aug. 8.

“It’s quite a celebration,” said Cladoosby, who is in his in his second year completing the full canoe journey.

The 2009 journey marks the event’s 20th year. Cladoosby said the journey is a way to revitalize tribal culture and travel ancestral waterways.

He added the journey also provides a mix of culture and science. Organizers are working with the EPA and the USGS to monitor water quality throughout the Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. For the second year, five canoes are dragging water quality monitors that collect data as paddlers venture through the Puget Sound.

There is a bit of backup support for the tribal members canoeing. For Swinomish Tribal members, a 10-member backup team drives ahead to the next camp site to prepare food for the paddle-weary participants.

In all, more than 100 canoes filled with tribal members eager to connect with their ancestral heritage are participating in the 2009 Tribal Canoe Journey. The event rotates from tribe to tribe each year. In 2011, it will take place at the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community.

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