ICT: Tribal Canoe Journey is more than a cultural event

Indian Country Today writes about the upcoming Paddle to Swinomish and its cultural, environmental, economic and political importance:

The Canoe Journey started in 1989 to revive a traditional form of travel on the ancestral highways of the coastal Pacific Northwest. Every year, more than 100 indigenous canoes travel from their territories to a host nation, with stops at indigenous territories along the way, for celebration and cultural sharing.

In this year’s Journey, the first canoes get underway in early July and will meet at the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, near La Conner, Wash., July 25-31.

Cultural influence: Indigenous languages are spoken on the journey, particularly at the canoe landings when skippers ask hosts for permission for pullers to come ashore, and at evening ceremonies when dances and songs are shared.

Environmental influence: The Canoe Journey is proving to be an effective tool for measuring the health of the Salish Sea, an expansive inland sea stretching from the Strait of Georgia to the north to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound to the south.

Economic influence: The Canoe Journey brings thousands of visitors to host nations, impacting local economies and giving host nations an opportunity to show some economic muscle. Hosting is preceded by new construction to accommodate visitors.

Political influence: The Canoe Journey has built bridges between cultures. A committee of Native and non-Native people formed to help raise money for the Lummi Nation’s Canoe Journey hosting in 2007. Lummi’s hosting included its largest public potlatch in 70 years.

Read the full article.