This Is Not a Tourist Event

Ten Thousand People, a Dangerous Canoe Journey, and the Spectacular Endurance of the Tribes the American Government Has Tried to Kill


Beautiful, ʉra
I also attended the paddle to Quinault. I am very familiar with this beautiful unknown beach/area and it was strange to see so many people and vehicles. It was a wonderful spectacle--because the Quinault have closed the reservation to non indians it gave us a chance to once again walk the Pt Grenville beach (where the canoes came in). The Quinaults did some amazing planning from meals for all and easy to use shuttles.
Aha- we remember your van being called out at Protocol in risk of being washed out at the tide. Glad you rescued it, even if we couldn't help laughing a little!

I have been an honored guest of the Snoqualmie Tribe on Canoe Journey for the last 3 years; and my 13 year old son has been a puller in their Canoes for since he was 11. It was indeed a dangerous and scary trip for many, including hospital trips. We are all happy and thankful that everyone was ultimately safe.

This is one of the best articles I've read about the Journey in the last few years. Many thanks for your observations & insight. I do want to add- that one of the biggest messages through the entire Journey is about healing- including sobriety. Every leg of the Journey & every event is alcohol & drug free. Staying sober is not a battle that everyone wins. But the power of 10 thousand people even THINKING all together about sobriety is an incredibly powerful thing!
Awesome and interesting, I knew nothing about this event. Perhaps it's as much a testament to your writing style, but Quinault strikes me as a topic perfect for a documentary filmmaker as well.
Not true about The Havasupai not letting the tourists take pictures. This spring, I took one with a local whom ran the camping permits. He looked so much like my son's Uncle Louis. My son kept just kept staring him. I took a picture of my son and the gentleman. Louis is Cowichan. My son has Didadaht status. Maybe that made the difference. The helicopter is available for non tribal members as well. It is quite pricey, $300 round trip. Tribal members get first rights. You could be waiting 4 hours in Arizona desert heat waiting to fly down. Other wise, it is either a ten mile pack in or mule in. It is well worth it. I advise having the mules pack your stuff in and out. They have some of the most beautiful waterfalls (that you can swim in too!) Visiting them is the best part of the grand canyon.
Thought provoking and lovely work Ms. Graves. Thank you.
A beautiful article about a beautiful experience. I was privileged to visit the 2011 Canoe Journey in Swinomish. But it was the barest fraction of the experience. Every year I think of it again.
Awesome piece. Matika Wilbur's photos are great.
This was a wonderful piece, and I can't wait for the piece on Matika Wilbur.
I was lucky enough to be on one of those "big old European based ships." (The Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain, out of Aberdeen, WA, are operated by the non-profit Grays Harbor Historical Seaport.) There are lots of things that can be said about the symbolism of tall ships alongside canoes for the Journey, and far more stories about what it was like to participate in the Journey. But I'd like to mention that from my point of view, Grays Harbor Historical Seaport is genuine and wholehearted about their support for the Canoe Journey and all its participants.
I wanted to add that the Canoe Journey is an incredibly powerful cultural event. I feel privileged to have taken part as a guest and a witness.
Oh! And a beautiful 2 minute film was made on board:
Thanks for sharing your experience, Jen, and not trying to explain or get too elaborate with what you witnessed.
Great article, thanks Jen. I too am looking forward to your story on Ms. Wilbur. And thanks, marthas @12: that was a lovely video. Those carved canoes are amazing!
Thank you for the well done and respectful article, Jen.
wonderful article!
Last year while hiking to the lighthouse near Sequim we saw several canoes on their journey. One paddled up to the beach and ask us to help carry their canoe over the spit to shorten the journey as one canoe member wasn't feeling well. We felt honored to help, and to hear their stories. I am so glad this is an annual event, what a culturally beautiful celebration!
This was my first Journey and while I agree with the author that it isn't for casual visitors, to say non natives are not welcome is not correct. My husband & I are completely non native, we worked ground crew the whole trip, and were warmly welcomed at every tribal stop our family made. We did the Southern route and the Columbia can be a bear. It's a lifechanging Journey.
I forgot to add 'Nice Article' too.
@18 - You should review it on TripAdvisor. :-P
@18: Please reread. I did not say non-natives are not welcome. Not at all!
I have been a paddler for 18 years now, it would have twenty, but my aunt passed 2011, last year I started a job, so missed 2012. Bella Bella would have been my twenty year, but things happen. I have always paddled for To-su-kie. This year was awesome to Quinault. I really enjoyed the paddle. Bella Bella was my first Journey in 1994, I was on the 53 ft, six ft wide canoe. I was told that single women can find a man on the journey's, but behold I am still single. !! I have recruited a lot of young people on journey's, some fell back to drugs/ alcohol. Some have family's, which is nice to see the little ones grow up. Every year is getting more chuputs on the ocean.
Nice article! I grew up near LaConner, WA. I remember Nancy Wilbur from when she used to teach @ Skagit Valley College. I also knew Doug, Nancy's brother, who was married to one of my best friends in the world. Fond memories. Now I'm homesick!!
Terrific article, important subject that doesn't get enough coverage. Dig the fine respectful discourse here in the comments! Maybe "only registered commenters" is a good rule all the time.
Nice article. I volunteered when the Canoe journey brought 5,000+ people to little Suquamish in 2009, and my wife volunteered in 2011 at Squaxin(?).

I highly recommend anybody who has any interest contact their volunteer coordinator for an experience of a lifetime.
As an addendum to the bio-regional model we should adopt the pre-contact, native social structure by walling off Seattle into a super-dense, pod city and breaking up into mini-states/mega families of 150 souls. The remaining sprawl outside of the walls should be re-wilded back to 1820. Individual states/tribes eventually adopt a subsistence lifestyle dependent on hunting, fishing and foraging. Competitive social stratification, classism and racism will be irrelevant w/out the accumulation of power and corruption via agriculture. The transition period will be marked by a communist, WPA style agriculture and aquaculture, engineering a network of man-made salmon bearing rivers streaming down from lake WA into Elliot bay. The Puget Sound basin is inarguably the best real-estate on the planet for basic human habitation. The pre-contact bounty of nature was so prolific here that the native populations were able to a afford the luxury of complex governments w/out significant agriculture. This is where we're at; this is what we should be doing.
Lovely article. I also am excited for the upcoming piece on Matika Wilbur.
Thank you for putting into words the experience I had and have not been able to word yet.
Yea, nice to paddle. But a bit overboard with all the mentions of the white man's gasoline, people being saved by motorized boats (probably the white man's coast guard), people having cushy jobs in big white man's cities (LA, Seattle) and people who are professors in the white man's institutions. You have to admit, that is a strong undercurrent that props up the whole works. Like, oh, a Passion Play for Indians. Cool, but there are other people doing the real scenery.
I bet some Indians eat Twinkies too.....
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Jen, your article is beautiful and describes the experience perfectly. I was there, too! It was a sincere honor to be welcomed so warmly by the tribal members and canoe families to their amazing event.
Wow, Jen!! What an incredible story! I grew up on Snee-Oosh Beach (part of the Swinomish Reservation) and know members of the Wilbur family. The route out to Quinault is beautiful. La Conner hosted a canoe journey not long ago---about two summers ago.
She remembers a sign on a tavern in La Conner: "No dogs or Indians allowed."

This is only an urban legend.

Respectfully, I disagree that this sign ever existed. The townsfolk of LaConner never took such a harsh attitude toward Swinomish people.