Billy Frank Jr., chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, beamed as he looked out over the thousands of people crowding the beach at Lummi July 30.
”It is one of the greatest days in our lifetime,” he said. ”Look over there. All the babies, the kids swimming, people are happy. We should be happy all the time. Look at all the good people, all the good energy, people hugging each other and saying hello.”
Hosting the journey conclusion and potlatch was no small feat. Hundreds of Native and non-Native volunteers recruited more volunteers and hoped to raise at least $350,000 to support the event. Lane said 24 committees arranged hospitality for elders, prepared and served food, managed camping sites and took care of the hundreds of other necessary daily details.
Volunteers said they served between 3,500 and 4,000 dinners – up from the expected 1,700 – each day from 4 – 10 p.m.
Suquamish Chairman Leonard Forsman said he expected Suquamish to begin making preparations to host the 2009 Canoe Journey as soon as the 2007 event was finished. He said Suquamish is raising money to build a longhouse in which to host daily events. He expects the cost of hosting to be about $1 million.