Paddle to Makah

Published on July 21, 2014 by Amy

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Paddle to Makah
Paddle to Makah

This year marked the fourth time the Chehalis Canoe Family has participated in the Tribal Canoe Journey. Shortly after fireworks season ended, many Canoe Family members were seen excitedly packing and preparing for this year’s journey. Each individual anticipated spending time with family and making new friends while traveling the Puget Sound with “One Heart, One Mind.”

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The journey began on Wednesday, July 7th at Squaxin Island, where camp was set up and formal protocol happened that night. The following morning the journey began through Puget Sound waterways. Many early mornings followed as the participating tribal canoe families began each day at 4:00 AM. It was hot the first few days with temperatures reaching into the mid-nineties. The heat created safety issues for both the pullers and land crew, who were grateful for the hosting tribes providing much needed extra water.

As the journey continued the number of participants started to grow as familiar and new faces joined up at different locations to add to the pullers and ground crew. It wasn’t a vacation though, as the ground crew traveled in their “ground canoes” breaking down camp, and moving to the new location to set up again. Many hours were spent driving to the different tribes who were hosting the next stop. The tribes shared their songs and dances at the evening camps.

One heart, One mind is hard to explain and you really need to be there to get the full impact. It is what the Chehalis Canoe Family is all about: sharing, and teaching the youth about family and team values, about sharing in the workload and enjoying each other’s company. It’s not just about the work to be done, but about learning and respecting each other and other Tribes’ traditions.

Campgrounds were established and delicious meals provided by each hosting tribe. Canoe families sang thank you songs, recognizing their hard work and the long hours for the cooks who worked diligently to feed this large group of canoe families breakfast, lunch and dinner. Hands up to the hosting tribes and cooks for their dedication in making this a safe and successful journey.

At camp many youth were seen learning and laughing together as they worked on their regalia or gift items for the final destination protocol. Each individual was required to make or donate ten items each, and for many it was their first time beading or making traditional items.

Many agreed that the early mornings were tough, but necessary to make the tides for safe travel on the water. Skipper’s meetings were held the evening before to establish leaving time and tides. Support boat skippers were up early to meet their respective canoes. Our canoe family was fortunate to have two support boats during the journey.

Many thanks go out to Dave Lopeman, Squaxin Island Chairman and John Setterstrom for assisting us throughout the journey. Without them we wouldn’t have been given permission to leave the hosting tribe. Other thanks go out to the families who opened their yards to host a visiting canoe family providing much needed showers and access to laundry services.

We can’t forget to say thanks to Sylvia Cayenne, Canoe Family mama and mentor who encouraged and proudly said, “There’s my Angels!” referring to the white paddles that look like angel wings as they moved in unison. Knowing that “Tu-lap ti weah” arrived ahead of schedule and with the pullers‘ power pulls and prayers they pulled with their heart and soul. It’s not a race as everyone knows, but prayers help move the canoe along with grace and pride.

Source: chehalistribe Unabridged
Based on the collective work of, © 2015 Native American Encyclopedia.
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