My Canoe Family started practicing in the spring for the summer journey. Preparation includes physical work-outs in addition to water training and safety. We take one of our canoes out on a lake or in Puget Sound and practice for an hour or two at a time every week. We have weekly Canoe Family meetings from spring to fall and meet twice a month during the winter. During these meetings, we take care of business, eat dinner together, practice our songs and dances. I also learned beading and made a salmon bead design for my canoe vest.
How did this impact your life?
Thousands of Natives and non-Natives participate in the journey. The journey is a physical, spiritual, and cultural event. It takes a lot of strength to be a “puller” on a canoe, and pull, or stroke, for hours every day. Most of us pray and use our spirituality to gain strength. We are gathering just like our ancestors did and traveling the same waterways our ancestors traveled. Another great thing about the journey is that so many different tribes reunite and we get to meet new people and learn other tribes/family’s songs and dances.
The Canoe Journey changed my life! I have a biological family and now I have a Canoe Family. We became very close to each other, I now see them as my brothers, sisters, aunties, uncles, cousins, etc… I learned for the first time how to pray on the journey–it came to me one night during meditation, through powerful visions/dreams… When I felt weak on the canoe, I prayed to my ancestors and sang the songs, and leaned on my canoe family for strength. I met the love of my life on this journey, and that has certainly changed my life.
The annual Canoe Journey is an important cultural event for NW tribal nations
Will you go on the Canoe Journey next year?
I wouldn’t miss the Canoe Journey for anything, so of course I will go next year! I love being a part of keeping this Native tradition alive and my Canoe Family is so important to me. I want my kids to know the strength and knowledge of our people and the traditions that keep us strong. I am so proud of my Canoe Family.