Paddle to Makah


Originally published in our Chehalis Tribal Newsletter,
July 2010 which can be downloaded below.



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2010 Tribal Journey "Paddle to Makah"

By Fred Shortman

This year marked the fourth time the Chehalis Canoe Family has participated in the Tribal Canoe Journey. Shortly after fireworks season ended, many Canoe Family members were seen excitedly packing and preparing for this year’s journey. Each individual anticipated spending time with family and making new friends while traveling the Puget Sound with “One Heart, One Mind.”

The journey began on Wednesday, July 7th at Squaxin Island, where camp was set up and formal protocol happened that night. The following morning the journey began through Puget Sound waterways. Many early mornings followed as the participating tribal canoe families began each day at 4:00 AM. It was hot the first few days with temperatures reaching into the mid-nineties. The heat created safety issues for both the pullers and land crew, who were grateful for the hosting tribes providing much needed extra water.

For three continuous days small craft advisories were in effect as the journey entered the Straits of Juan de Fuca.

As the journey continued the number of participants started to grow as familiar and new faces joined up at different locations to add to the pullers and ground crew. It wasn’t a vacation though, as the ground crew traveled in their “ground canoes” breaking down camp, and moving to the new location to set up again. Many hours were spent driving to the different tribes who were hosting the next stop. The tribes shared their songs and dances at the evening camps.

One heart, One mind is hard to explain and you really need to be there to get the full impact. It is what the Chehalis Canoe Family is all about: sharing, and teaching the youth about family and team values, about sharing in the workload and enjoying each other’s company. It’s not just about the work to be done, but about learning and respecting each other and other Tribes’ traditions.

Campgrounds were established and delicious meals provided by each hosting tribe. Canoe families sang thank you songs, recognizing their hard work and the long hours for the cooks who worked diligently to feed this large group of canoe families breakfast, lunch and dinner. Hands up to the hosting tribes and cooks for their dedication in making this a safe and successful journey.

Canoe Families rafted up together to create a “Flotilla” of canoes while they awaited to come ashore.

At camp many youth were seen learning and laughing together as they worked on their regalia or gift items for the final destination protocol. Each individual was required to make or donate ten items each, and for many it was their first time beading or making traditional items.

Many agreed that the early mornings were tough, but necessary to make the tides for safe travel on the water. Skipper’s meetings were held the evening before to establish leaving time and tides. Support boat skippers were up early to meet their respective canoes. Our canoe family was fortunate to have two support boats during the journey.

Many thanks go out to Dave Lopeman, Squaxin Island Chairman and John Setterstrom for assisting us throughout the journey. Without them we wouldn’t have been given permission to leave the hosting tribe. Other thanks go out to the families who opened their yards to host a visiting canoe family providing much needed showers and access to laundry services.

Final landing ceremonies were amazing as Makah Nation honored all the canoe families as they requested to enter their land.

We can’t forget to say thanks to Sylvia Cayenne, Canoe Family mama and mentor who encouraged and proudly said, “There’s my Angels!” referring to the white paddles that look like angel wings as they moved in unison. Knowing that “Tu-lap ti weah” arrived ahead of schedule and with the pullers‘ power pulls and prayers they pulled with their heart and soul. It’s not a race as everyone knows, but prayers help move the canoe along with grace and pride.

Thanks go out Elders Elaine McCloud and Trudy Marcellay for helping make our ragalia. Your work is greatly appreciated.

Hope to see you next Year! 2011 Paddle to Swinomish.

Personal Experiences

Ashlea Parkinson, 17 year old tribal member commented, “Being the first time on the Canoe Journey, it was an eye opener. The Canoe Journey brought me closer to people and opened my eyes to my culture. How important respect and honor are to our elders and to nature as a whole. I learned so much from just watching others and how they interacted to certain situations. Getting involved with the Chehalis Canoe Family impacted my summer greatly.

I was able to hear people from different tribes gather and jam together. I had the opportunity to paddle on my first day. When we started out, I realized that everyone on the canoe had joined as one. Learning to paddle in rhythm was hard at first, something that I’ve never experienced before. I learned that even if you don’t know anyone, they’ll make you comfortable and welcome you into their family circle.

The journey has encouraged me to be more active in our tribal activities and I most definitely will continue to encourage others to join us next year on the canoe journey. I am already excited for next year! It should be just as great as this year, if not better.

I went on the journey for experience, but now I can use this awesome experience for my senior project. I’ll share pictures and memories with students and teachers. and enlighten them on the culture and how amazing this journey really is. It was such a positive opportunity, and I’m so glad I went.”

Connie Baker, tribal member wrote, “I participated in our tribes Canoe Journey for the first time. It was everything I was hoping it would be. It was the emotional high that I had heard so much about, and not a minute of it was without some kind of memorable emotion.

“One heart one mind” is the family function, and no matter what task or function was at hand, the family unit has to function as one. The teachings, the stories, the daily chores, and tasks that have to get done before anything else can proceed, is the daily addenda. And then the fun can begin, interacting with the other canoe families, and tribes was awesome, everyone is there for the same purpose, the same goal in mind, to have a safe, fun, and memorable journey, together, as one. The biggest family unit of all. And that was powerfully emotional. Everyone made everyone feel so welcome, like long lost family visiting. All journey long I had the feelings of de’ ja’ vu, everywhere I went just seemed familiar, some of the faces I saw, I thought I knew, when I mentioned this to Leona, she told me, My grandma (Elaine) says that the feeling of deja’ vu, means that you are in the right place at the right time. That explained the whole journey for me; I was in the right place at the right time. I didn’t want to leave, and I didn’t want it to end.