A sea of tents, RVs, vans and cars covered the grass in front of the newly constructed Muckleshoot Community Center on Monday morning. Outside, a ring of vendors sell their wares — huckleberry lemonade, beadwork, fry bread, turquoise, colorful scarves and more.
Inside, bleachers in the auditorium were packed as Canoe Journey protocol officially began.
As hosts, representatives from the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe welcomed hundreds of canoe pullers and thousands of tribal community members into their home.
“For me, I feel a lot of pride because we know that these traditions, these teachings — like mutual respect for other tribes — are going to carry on,” said John Daniels Jr., Muckleshoot tribal council member, treasurer and chairman of the culture committee. “There were ancestors that put their lives on the line. They could have just assimilated but they said ‘I’ll die before I let them take our culture, our traditions.’”
Indigenous languages, songs, the chiming of bells, the rhythm of drums and the pounding of feet mid-dance filled the enormous community center. The sounds carried outside, broadcast on speakers.
In total, 120 canoe families made the journey from their home nations around the Pacific Northwest and beyond. After paddling for days or weeks to the canoe landing at Alki Beach, most took turns sharing their songs and dances in a multiple day ceremony called protocol.
The first family to take the floor for protocol was the One People Canoe Family from Alaska. Hundreds of people sitting in the bleachers surrounding the gym inside the community center watched, at times clapping along or sitting in hushed silence. Each canoe family had the stage for two hours, but many took less time than that and some took longer.
This year is particularly important. It’s the first canoe journey after a three-year break during the Covid-19 pandemic. For so many, canoe journey this summer has been about healing and honoring loved ones lost.
“It’s reawakening that energy, that spirit that we have, that we’ve lost, that have been taken from us because of the pandemic,” said Jessica Elopre, Tlinigt and Haida, part of the G’ana’k’w Canoe Family. “That’s what this is, it really feels like all of us have been woken up again.”
Lead photo: The One Canoe Family from Alaska was the first to share songs and dances, kicking off multiple days of protocol. (Photo by Jarrette Werk / Underscore News & Report for America)
Nika is a journalist with a passion for working to provide platforms for the voices and experiences of communities often left behind in mainstream media coverage. Most recently, she worked as the health and social services reporter at The Columbian in Vancouver, Washington. Prior to working at The Columbian, Nika spent the summer of 2022, after graduating magna cum laude from the University of Oregon with a degree in journalism, working as a Snowden Intern at The News-Review in Roseburg, Oregon. A descendant of the Osage and Oneida Nations, Nika was born and raised in Portland. Her favorite way to unwind is by trying a new recipe, curling up with a good book or taking a hike in one of the many green spaces around Portland.