14 May 2013
“The revitalization of ocean culture through canoes is coming to life.”
That is Guy Capoeman speaking about Paddle to Quinault, the 2013 version of the annual Tribal Journey. He is the project coordinator for the Journey that will end at his nation, more than 100 kilometers south of Neah Bay on the west coast of the Olympic Peninsula, from August 1-6. The theme for this year's event is Honouring Our Warriors.
Ocean-going canoes from several Naut’sa mawt Tribal Council nations will join about 100 others that will journey to Quinault Indian Nation this summer. They will travel from Bella Coola, along the west coast of Vancouver Island and through the Salish Sea. Paddlers from Sliammon, Snuneymuxw and Malahat will join the Journey as it heads south, meeting their relations from Puget Sound in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
The T’Sou-ke First Nation canoe will cross the strait, landing near Port Angeles for the last legs of the voyage, west to Makah and the open Pacific Ocean, and then south, visiting the tribal communities of Ozette, Quileute, Hoh River and Queets before the final landing at Quinault.
Tribal Journey origins
Something of a renaissance is occurring, as Quinault gets ready for an expected 10,000 visitors this summer. It was here, in 1989, that Emmet Oliver of Quinault and Frank Brown of Bella Bella, BC had the idea for the Paddle to Seattle. Nine traditional ocean-going cedar dugout canoes made the journey from coastal villages of Northwest Washington and BC to help celebrate Seattle’s 100th birthday.
That event sparked interest as nations along the coast began working to heighten awareness of tradition and culture. By 1993, Tribal Journey had become an annual event. Since the start, it has been a drug and alcohol free, aimed at being a journey for youth, elders and entire communities to engage in healing and recovery of culture, traditional knowledge and spirituality.
A place of riches
Tahola is the main community and is at the northern end of the huge Quinault reservation that has 23 miles of unspoiled beaches and 208,150 acres (84,271 hectares) of productive conifer forestlands. Inland from the shoreline is the nation’s gem, glacier-fed Lake Quinault with its 12 miles of shoreline.
At the mouth of the Quinault River, in the community of Tahola, are the administration offices for the nation’s 4,000 people. Quinault employs about 700 people.
The Journey plans are being carried out at the old tribal headquarters building known as ‘the roundhouse’. Next-door is the canoe shed where five river canoes are being built to offer as gifts to visiting nations. In another building, a huge totem is being carved that will be raised during the five days of protocol and celebrations.
Guy Capoeman is seldom at the roundhouse. The Journey coordinator is a master carver and a past vice-chairman of the tribe. He spends his days overseeing everything from food for thousands to the major infrastructure works that are taking place to get ready for Quinault’s guests.
“We’ve caught 13,000 crab, six bear, 13 elk, lots of deer and there has even been a bison given to us,” he says as he tries to give a visitor some perspective as to the enormous task his community is undertaking. On a drive to Point Grenville, he points out the new road to the beach and facilities for camping, feasting and protocol.
Point Grenville, where Quinault’s main shellfish beds are located, will soon be renamed Hunishu in honour of elder Phillip Martin Sr. The beaches will provide miles of camping above the high-tide line. Above the beach, parking and RV sites are being prepared along with restrooms and spaces for huge dining tents.
Capoeman explains that the Quinault people consider themselves Salish people through language and traditions. His nation is located on a dividing line both geographically and culturally. The southern shoreline has seemingly endless sandy beaches while to the north are rugged stone cliffs.
Quinault nation includes the Quinault and Queets tribes and has descendants, and influences from, five other coastal tribes: Quileute, Hoh, Chehalis, Chinook, and Cowlitz.
The name means “a place of riches” and it is easy to see why. “We want to show the connections with the world that we have had and that our ancestors have had,” Capoeman said of coming Journey.
Change of venue
Quinault nation last hosted Tribal Journey in 2002. The 45 canoes that arrived had trouble navigating the difficult mouth to the Quinault River. Capoeman said there was only about 20-minute windows for the arrival, in a fog.
That sparked the change in venue for protocol and landing to Point Grenville to the south of Tahola. It offered smooth beaches and protection of several small rocky islands. It also provided plenty of space for camping as well as a chance to show off one of the most magnificent beach environments on the coast.
Tribal Journey receives no federal, state or local government funds. Nations that host the event face large financial contributions.
An added bonus to this year’s Journey will be the tall ships Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain. The ships were invited by the Quinault to escort canoes along the open coast from Neah Bay. The route is through the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary.