Canoe Family helps spread word about Nisqually Canoe Journey

Members of the Nisqually Tribe’s Canoe Family entertained the staff and students at Evergreen Forest Elementary School with dance and song during an assembly last week, when they talked about the upcoming summer canoe journey that the South Sound tribe is hosting.
Members of the Nisqually Tribe’s Canoe Family entertained the staff and students at Evergreen Forest Elementary School with dance and song during an assembly last week, when they talked about the upcoming summer canoe journey that the South Sound tribe is hosting. sbloom@theolympian.com

Thousands of people are expected to turn out to see more than 100 tribal canoes land at the Port of Olympia on July 30 for the 2016 Paddle to Nisqually Canoe Journey.

After the landing, the weeklong celebration will continue at a 38-acre site on the Nisqually Reservation.

“As the host nation, we are responsible for all of the visitors coming into our territory,” said Hanford McCloud, skipper of the Nisqually Canoe Family and newly elected Nisqually tribal council member. “And so what we’re doing as a Canoe Family is going out and talking to local businesses and the local school districts to see if there’s any interest in volunteering or helping out any way that they feel comfortable doing.”

So far, the group has made about 20 presentations, including one this month at Evergreen Forest Elementary School in Lacey.

“Canoe Journey, or Tribal Journeys, is what we call the old potlatch system,” McCloud told the students. “As these nations travel to our territory, they bring with them their elders, their youth, their medicine men, their chiefs and they come to our territory and will enjoy in this festivity for about eight days.”

The celebration, which will include drumming, dancing, feasting, gift-giving and cultural events, is open to the community.

Although Northwest tribal people used to frequently travel by canoe on Puget Sound and other waterways, the Canoe Journey tradition was sparked by the Paddle to Seattle in 1989, which was part of the Washington centennial celebration, according to the Paddle to Nisqually website. Since then, more than 20 gatherings have taken place, drawing participation by numerous Northwest tribes, First Nations people, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, Maori and other indigenous groups.

Volunteers will play a huge role in the Nisqually’s celebration, McCloud said.

“We’re going to feed pretty close to 6,000 to 7,000 people a day, breakfast and dinner,” he said. “There’s a variety of areas that we’re opening up to having people help us in any way that’s possible.”

Volunteers can help with meals, safety and security, transportation, hospitality, recycling, cleanup, and youth and elder programs.

There’s even plenty of work that can be done now. Helpers are needed to help sew regalia for participants and create basket necklaces for the giveaway, according to Canoe Journey coordinator Joyce McCloud.

“The goal is to do 2,000 basket necklaces to give away to all of our visitors on the last day,” she said. Weekly craft sessions are scheduled 1-4 p.m. and 5-8 p.m. Wednesdays at the Billy Frank Community Service Center on the reservation, she said.

People who are interested in volunteering for any of the efforts can sign up at paddletonisqually.com or by calling 360-456-5221.

Evergreen Forest has a large population of students from Nisqually or other tribes. One of its annual traditions is Native American drum-making for all of the school’s fourth-graders.

The drums are paid for with a school district multicultural grant and other funding, principal Stephanie Hollinger said.

This year, Evergreen Forest’s music teacher, Paula Fairchild, art teacher Ashley Rupp, and Jerad Koepp, the school district’s Native Student Program Specialist, teamed up for the drum making, Hollinger said.

The school’s fourth-graders presented their new hand drums with a song that included Coast Salish words before the Canoe Family performed their songs and dances, showed a video about a past Canoe Journey, and talked about how kids could help.

Members of the Canoe Family said they were touched by the students’ performance.

“We don’t even have that in some of the native schools,” Joyce McCloud said. “And to see them with a song, using the language? That was awesome.”

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433, @Lisa_Pemberton

Get involved with the landing

The Nisqually Indian Tribe has partnered with the city of Olympia and the Port of Olympia for the 2016 Paddle to Nisqually Canoe Journey landing in downtown Olympia on July 30.

From July 31 to Aug. 6, Canoe Journey events will move to the Nisqually Indian Reservation.

Port and city officials are seeking volunteers and food vendors for the July 30 event. To sign up as a volunteer or vendor for Landing Day on July 30, visit the Port of Olympia’s website at portolympia.com/341/2016-Paddle-to-Nisqually-Canoe-Journey.

The tribe also seeks volunteers to help with meals, cleanup, recycling and other jobs. For more information, go to paddletonisqually.com.

Millersylvania State Park hosts Canoe Families celebration

The state Parks and Recreation Commission Folk & Traditional Arts in the Parks Program invites the public to the Second Annual Canoe Families Celebration from noon-4 p.m. June 4 at the boat launch area on Deep Lake at Millersylvania State Park, 12245 Tilley Road SW, Olympia. The event celebrates the hard work and dedication of the members of and volunteers associated with the Nisqually, Chehalis, Puyallup, Squaxin Island and Skokomish canoe families.

The June 4 event will feature free canoe rides along with native singers, drummers and storytellers. There will be children’s activities, and several artists will have crafts for sale. A salmon and fry bread lunch will be available for purchase for $10. Free hot dogs and s’mores also will be offered.

Proceeds from food sales support the canoe families’ participation in the Paddle to Nisqually Canoe Journey 2016, hosted by the Nisqually Indian Tribe from July 30 through Aug. 6.

A Discover Pass is not required to attend the event. In recognition of National Trails Day, June 4 is a State Parks “free day,” when visitors to state parks are not required to display a Discover Pass.