Reflections of the Canoe Journey 2023

Reflections of the canoe journey this year revealed a deeply personal experience. Many in Shelter Bay were paying attention too. The event took place back on July 31. -August 6, 2023. It was one of the absolute highlight opportunities for us to be engaged. Our residents came in large numbers to attend the festivities, including an open dinner hosted by the Swinomish Indian tribe and our curiosity was at an all-time high.

We got a glimpse into the significance of their people’s traditions and customs. The exhilaration the native tribes were feeling as they challenged themselves among the waterways, honoring the journeys of their ancestors was infectious. If you were there, you were more than an observer. you likely felt the excitement along with them.

To understand more about the journey that brought many tribes to the shores of Swinomish, we cannot forget the aspect of this way of travel. Tribes of distant lands came with an eventual landing at Muckleshoot, Alki Beach.

The canoe journey is a tradition that has taken place for generations. The canoes were most often crafted from a single log that may have been several hundred years old. There is much honoring around the wood used, as their use has been integral for the tribe’s survival. This was their way of travel, their way of life upon the water. It was relied upon heavily. Many of their resources came from these waters and  ensured a soft footprint upon the environment. They took only what they needed for survival with an understanding of the replenishment of mother nature. Different regions had different types of canoes as they traveled upon these waterways.

We cannot reflect on the canoe journey without putting an emphasis on the importance of the traditional ceremonies. Their meaning cannot be understated. There is a host nation that welcomes all the various tribes with immense generosity. At this point, many ceremonies are held to honor their ancestors, as well as each person that has participated in this meaningful travel, and all in attendance. The tribes of the Salish Sea and beyond come together in song, dance, celebration food and the sharing of intergenerational and intuitive memories. This event sees many thousands of people.

Some of us have had the great fortune to attend a landing, a dinner, a moment with a tribal friend. As mentioned previously, the canoe dinner this year welcomed us as guests and hosted here in La Conner by The Swinomish Indian Tribal Community. It was a witnessing for us to comprehend another way of life. The canoe journey can be a process for us to better understand the importance of the land on which we reside.

If you were one of the lucky ones to attend, meet the skippers and friendly tribes of Vancouver Island and beyond, then you too felt the love brought upon these shores. I know I did, and I hope we all can look forward to more with our reciprocal actions.

Written by: Lisa Versteegh