Tribal Journeys

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Author Topaz ?
Collection Canoe Traditions

Bruce E. Johansen, a scholar of Native American studies and the author of a 2012 article entitled “Canoe Journeys and Cultural Revival” noted the decline of the #canoe when “Native peoples adapted to new technology during the twentieth century and started using boats made of planks that were powered by outboard motors.”

Yet Johansen wrote, for many maritime peoples around the world, the canoe “framed culture and invoked deep spiritual beliefs in life and death.”

To the “people of the water,” the aboriginal peoples living along the coastal areas of the Pacific Northwest, the 1980s transcendence of the canoe sparked a #cultural #revival of song, dance and language. But perhaps even more significantly, the paddler movement encouraged #sobriety, asking its participants to make a pledge not to drink or to use drugs or to smoke while on a paddle journey.

For Douglas Chilton, the canoe took on new meaning in 2003 at Tribal Journeys, an annual paddle along ancestral water pathways through Puget Sound, Inside Passage and the Northwest Coast that got its start in 1989. The next paddle will occur in 2016.

Douglas remembers being mesmerized by a little girl who wandered onto the stage dressed from head-to-toe in ceremonial regalia. She grabbed a microphone that barely fit in her hand, and introduced her entire canoe family in her native tongue. Douglas turned to his son and said, “This is what we need in Alaska.”

Building upon the success of Tribal Journeys, which grew operations from 13 traditional cedar canoes in 1989 to now more than 100 canoes and 10,000 participants from the United States, Canada (First Nations), Hawaii, New Zealand, Japan and the Philippines, the One People Canoe Society adopted protocols like the Tribal Journeys’ Ten Rules of the Canoe, a kind of life lesson plan that offers guidance on respect, trust, support, adaptability and charity; and launched new traditions such as their paddle workshops.

One of the founding members of Tribal Journeys, Philip H. Red Eagle (Dakota and Puget Sound Salish) is proud that the canoe movement empowers youth to take action on a global level.

“As we have moved through the last 25 years, we have passed through a generation of people attending the journeys,” Eagle says. “Those young ones that began with us as children are now grown adults who have been taking over leadership of these journeys. Along with this participation, our focus on the environment has made these young ones more aware of their environment and they are participating more in the politics of the environment. An example would be ‘sHell No,’ where a number of Native American canoes participated in the Anti-Oil demonstrations.”

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