Early risers set up chairs and blankets along the shore at Alki Beach in Seattle Sunday morning, preparing for the arrival of hundreds of canoes from all across the Salish Sea and beyond.
One by one, each canoe family took turns asking for permission to land from this year’s host, the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe.
“Traditionally, you have to ask permission to come ashore into another nation’s territory,” said Jolene Lozier, Muckleshoot and Yakama. “When you see the canoes coming in, you’re gonna see them raise their paddles up three times. And that means, ‘I come in peace.’”
Representatives aboard each canoe introduced themselves – first in their tribal language and then in English. Some parts of each request were unique. Others were often repeated.
One phrase was included in nearly every representative’s request: “We are hungry, we are tired, please give us permission to land.”
Canoe families from across the Salish Sea, and even across the world traveled to Muckleshoot, including families from New Zealand, Japan, Hawaii and Alaska.
After each request, a Muckleshoot representative responded, again with a combination of their own unique greeting and one said every time.
“You have permission to come ashore,” was a repeated phrase followed by cheers from the crowd and the roar of paddles pounding on the base of the canoe.
After carrying each canoe onto the beach, paddlers visited with friends and family. Already exhausted from a long journey, canoe families will participate in protocol at the Muckleshoot Community Center beginning at 9 a.m. on Monday and continuing 24 hours a day for a week.
Starting with those who paddled the farthest, each canoe family will introduce themselves, sharing their traditional songs and dance.
“It’s kind of like a more traditional version of a powwow,” Lozier said.
Lead photo: Skaydu Û Jules, Eagle/Killer Whale Clan of Teslin Tlingit people in southern Yukon, introduced her canoe family in Tlingit. “Being on the water, it felt like I was lifted up by our ancestors,” she said. 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.