LUMMI RESERVATION — The fire was ready.
It was time for the final critical step in the construction of the Stillaguamish Tribe’s first dugout canoe in more than a century.
With hooks, they hoisted a red-hot glowing hunk of car engine from the fire pit and lowered it into the water-filled canoe.
Stillaguamish Tribal Chairman Shawn Yanity and his friend Jim Knapp, a member of the Snohomish Tribe, stepped back as the water cracked, sizzled, bubbled and boiled.
Felix Solomon grabbed a tarp, pulling it over the length of the 22-foot cedar canoe. Steam billowed from the sides of the covering.
The artist estimates he will need about three weeks to complete the finishing touches on the canoe. The Stillaguamish Tribe plans a ceremony and canoe launch on July 31 on the banks of the Stillaguamish River.
Last summer, the tribe celebrated its first salmon-welcoming ceremony in more than a generation. Efforts to regain traditional ways continue among the Stillaguamish people.
“We’ll never get back to the way our culture once was,” Yanity said earlier this year. “But we will celebrate our past and the coming day when we launch our new canoe, carved from a tree that was growing when the ancestors walked among the old cedar forests.”
Last year, a logging company unearthed seven old-growth cedar logs from a road bed in the Stillaguamish River watershed near Arlington.
Buried for more than a century, the 300-year-old logs were in good shape, so tribal officials asked Solomon to carve a canoe from one of the old cedars.
“We haven’t seen this for many generations. Felix is bringing this skill back to our families and our community,” said Darrell Phare, Solomon’s cousin. “The ancestors have blessed us and are waiting for the result. We thank Felix for doing this for all of us.”
Read the complete story here.
See more pictures of the canoe carving and steaming on NWIFC’s Flickr feed
Felix Solomon describes the process of carving the canoe in this Lummi Communications video.