SVH: Upper Skagit holds annual blessing

The Skagit Valley Herald (subscription required) covered the Upper Skagit Blessing of the Fleet:

While the Skagit River flowed swiftly under the Highway 9 bridge Friday, Upper Skagit tribal members held their annual blessing ceremony to keep fishermen safe.

Elder Sherman Williams, a spiritual leader, guided younger tribal members as they practiced traditions handed down from their ancestors.

Inside a semi-circle of drummers beating a steady rhythm and singing, young men carried two spirit boards — sacred red objects.

The boards hovered in the men’s hands, passing over fishermen and the great-granddaughter of an elder who learned from her mother how to carry plates of food to feed the fire and the river.

Nolan Denunzio, a lead drummer, said his grandfather taught him the songs sung at this and other ceremonies.

“I’m a repeater,” Denunzio said. “Once I hear a song, I don’t forget it.”

Elders at the ceremony called out for younger tribal members to learn the traditions.

“We’ve carried this tradition, and now the young people need to pick it up,” said John Cayou, a Swinomish elder and Shaker traveling missionary who helped with the ceremony.

The north Puget Sound tribes each have different blessing ceremonies.