Mutahunun (Hartman) Deetz in traditional Mashpee Wamanpoag regalia on the canoe journey.
Published August 1, 2016
SEATTLE — On July 24, 2016 ten to twelve paddlers from coastal Algonquin indigenous communities participated in the 2016 Paddle to Nisqually Tribal Canoe Journey in Washington. Their stated intention was to help in coastal healing and for awareness of environmental and community needs. They want to learn how regional coastal tribal communities are working towards truth and reconciliation within their own towns, cities, and states. These tribal groups are “seeking to create a stewardship to compare and learn how assimilation has impacted indigenous coastal communities. It is our goal as paddlers to foster the restoration of our traditional practices”, said Sagkompanau Mishoon Netooeusqua (Wampanoag), a canoe leader, who is known as Butterflywoman.
Elder Spirit canoe launched in Washington.
The right to hold canoe journeys and ceremonies was taken away as early as 1636.
This year’s canoe journey for the communities in the Northeast was entitled, “Don’t Forget about the Water.” Coastal tribes of the Northeast and the Northwest utilized waterways as ancient highways for thousands of years. As the original population of the Northeastern region, these tribes have faced continual forces for European assimilation. Traditional culture has been difficult to practice, but the unity of each tribal group as it passes knowledge to youth while canoeing and boat building strengthens family and community. For over fifteen years the native communities of the Northeast have continued to hold paddle ceremonies to honor their ancestors.
Canoes lined up on the shore.
“Many tribal communities no longer have water rights, and are fighting for them constantly. Water crisis occur in indigenous communities far more than in non-native communities,” said Sadkompanau Mishoon Netooeusqua. During paddle gatherings in the Northwest, the canoe groups prayed for the global water crisis, such as the Flint, Michigan water crisis and the Dine’ water crisis.
Upon arrival in Seattle, the group of paddlers were transported to the first launch site, and set up camp. At each stop along the journey, canoe families followed common protocols, asking permission to come ashore in their native languages. They spent evenings in the longhouses where there was gift giving, honoring drumming songs, and dances. Meals were provided by the host nations along the route. On July 28, 5,000 natives in canoes landed on Owens Beach at Point Defiance Park in their canoes. Many had traveled from Canada, as well as the Northeast. After the canoes were hauled onto the beach, everyone was invited to the Chief Leschi School, where the Puyallup Tribe welcomed them with traditional greetings of food, song, and dance.
Paddlers on the waterway.
The final destination happened on Saturday, July 30 at the Swanton Marina, where 10,000 people, Native, as well as non-native, greeted all of the canoes and paddlers. All will be welcomed again with a traditional ceremony.
Photos courtesy of Hartman Deetz.