Canoes traveled to Suquamish

Mon. Oct. 5/09
Canoes traveled to Suquamish
Cultural Event
Mark Kiemele

Canoes from many of our nations joined the annual Tribal Journey along the coast of the Salish Sea this year to the destination – Suquamish. Almost 90 canoes made their way into Puget Sound, stopping at Tsawwassen and Lummi. Along the way they saw the spectacular fireworks at Birch Bay, made new friends and learned lessons that will last a lifetime. Everyone – from teenagers to Elders, paddled for their own reason.

Gail and Drew Blaney of the Cheechlem Chi Chia canoe family may have said it best in Sliammon’s newsletter Neh Motl (Us):

“These are life-long teachings that will never be forgotten and will be carried close to the minds and hearts of all that have shared in the experience.”

They said that they paddled for many reasons, but mainly “to pay tribute to all of the respected and honoured elders that have recently made their spiritual journey in the Sliammon community”.

It took the Cheechlem Chi Chia 13 days to arrive in Suquamish after leaving the shores of Sliammon.

From Shell Beach at Stzu’minus, carver Noel Brown of Snuneymuxw helped people from nine communities launch the canoe he made for Kw’umut Lelum Child and Family Services. It left the shores with another, older canoe made by Elmer Sampson carrying paddlers of all ages, some of them children in care.


Pulling together as one

When I got home from the Kw’umut Lelum Tribal Journeys 2009 luncheon in Shell Beach last week, I couldn’t help but reflect on the wonderful experience we’d all shared this summer…

Outfitted in red t-shirts and guided by elder Florence James, Kw’umut Lelum stood out in every community because ours was one of the few canoe families consisting mainly of youths. Onlookers watched in amazement as we paddled in, the Kw’umut Lelum boys and girls being brave enough to present themselves and ask for permission to come ashore and take part in the traditions of their ancestors.

It was during moments like this that we all knew Tribal Journeys was about pulling together as one and not just in the canoe. This adventure fulfilled its promise of cultural and spiritual learning as well as healing for some, and was a special and unique personal journey for all, including myself.