Paddle to Quinault

In 2013 I was visiting Quinault with some family.  During the visit we heard a lot about a large cultural event that was about to happen at Point Grenville.  A canoe journey was coming.  I was unfamiliar with the event.  We took a trip to see the construction that was going on at the tribe to facilitate the arriving canoes and people.  A large area had been cleared, an event tent was going up, and we ran into a cousin who was finishing up a huge totem pole.  Everyone was working non stop to pull the event together.

A coastal canoe journey involves large, mostly wooden ocean going canoes that hold 8-12 paddlers. A route is picked and all the canoes travel to the final destination with ground support following along to set up camp at Tribes along the way.  At the landing destination, many people gather on the shore to do a welcoming ceremony.  After the welcoming ceremony a protocol takes place at camp which is a sharing of songs and dances. At large events protocol has been known to last 24 hours a day for days on end. This years event was to land at Point Grenville and the journey would go along the western coast of the Olympic Peninsula, a difficult and dangerous route.

I was super curious and decided to check out the landing ceremony.  When I was at the event I saw many familiar faces.  I enjoyed lots of good company and gorgeous scenery.  The landing ceremony was incredible and like nothing I had ever seen.  The event had a cultural purpose, not commercial, an anomaly in todays world.  People gathered to assert their indigenous identity, to reclaim their ancestral waterways.  This powerful event had enormous effect on me regarding the perception I had of my native identity.  It cultivated a feeling of continuation, a continuation of indigenous people of the pacific northwest.  I had a camera, I took these photos.

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