Swinomish Tribe hosts representatives from Australian aboriginal groups

The Skagit Valley Herald reports on a Rotary Club exchange between Australian aboriginal groups and northwest Washington tribes.

The Australians arrived in Canada May 1 and then traveled to Skagit County this week, spending Monday at the Swinomish Indian reservation. The members of the group — Jolleen Hicks, Tim Brown, Donna Johnston, Brooke-Louise O’Donnell and Harvey — all live in the state of Western Australia and represent at least six aboriginal language groups.

There are no tribes or treaties in Australia and only 20 of the 250 aboriginal languages survive, Hicks said.

Each of the program participants works in education or social services, such as with at-risk youth or people on probation. They’ll spend today in Skagit County, then go on to Snohomish County.

On Monday, they learned about some of the legal battles fought by tribes in the Northwest and about Coast Salish culture, including the Coast Salish annual Canoe Journey, which will be hosted Aug. 3-8 at Suquamish.

“The whole purpose of the journey is to get us all together,” said Eric Day, a skipper for the Edwards family, which paddles one of the two Swinomish canoes during the journey.

Day and Josephine Finkbonner, another skipper, launched the “The Spirit of the Salmon” canoe and took the visitors for a paddle in the Swinomish Channel.

Harvey said it was calming to be on the water.

“When we got out there we all introduced ourselves again, and Eric went though this spirit of the boat because a tree had given it up,” Harvey said. “It was quite an experience just to hear other peoples from around the world’s beliefs and spirituality. Even though we’re all so different, we’re connected and very much the same, as well.”