Editor’s note: At about 5 p.m., July 20, Friends of the San Juans staff relayed that canoes were re-routed from the San Juans to Lummi Island but that the dinners would continue as planned.
By Mary Fagerholm-Reece
Special to the Weekly
The beach at Odlin Park will come alive on Saturday, July 21, as four to six canoe families arrive from the inside passage of Vancouver Island. They will stop overnight on their way to Puyallup to gather with other First Nation families and Tribes to reestablish the tradition of the early canoe journeys of their people. The theme of this journey is “Honoring our Medicine.” Lopez community members are invited to gather to welcome them with good food and friendship.
Last year, I stood on the beach awaiting the arrival of canoe families on their way to Campbell River. Not knowing what to expect or quite how to behave, my heart was filled with anticipation and actually, great pride, as I saw the first canoes appear around Upright Head. I witnessed an embrace and appreciation of culture.
I felt that I was back in time, watching my great-great-grandmother’s family arriving. She was from “Old” Metlakatla, British Columbia, born in 1835. She was left behind while her family was on a canoe journey to the Salish Sea. Her Tsimshian name was “Conna,” but was anglicized to Mary Jane when she married Charles Brown. In June of 1869, when their fourth daughter, my great-grandmother Mary Jane, was 2 years old, they homesteaded near Port Stanley. Mother Brown, as the locals called her, spoke Chinook Jargon, which gave her the ability to communicate with, and act as a liaison between, early settlers and natives.
Because of my Lopez Heritage, I really wanted to be more of a part of the Canoe Journey celebration than just a bystander on the beach. I offered to host an elder in my home, to allow them to have a comfortable bed for the night after a long, hard paddle. Most of the rest of the families set up tents and camped near the beach. I did not know who I would be hosting but was introduced to a lovely woman from the Raven Clan of the Suquamish. She was the Captain of the Spirit of Raven Canoe, in her late ‘70s (but no one would believe that). It turns out that her mother was also Tsimshian!
This year, canoes are expected to arrive around 3 p.m. The community is encouraged to bring potluck items for the dinner. Ciro and Kim Pasciuto and their crew will have wood-fired pizza available again this year for the paddlers’ arrival, which was very well received last year Twenty Sockeye Salmon will be donated for the dinner by the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community.
Following the potluck dinner, locals are invited to Protocol, the evening tradition of drumming, dancing and song. Gifts will be exchanged between canoe skippers and the Lopez community. This is the highlight of the evening. Truly, a powerful experience for all who attend.
On Sunday, July 22, there will be a potluck breakfast before the families return to their canoes and request permission to leave our shores. They will make other stops along the way, to rest and celebrate, before arriving on the Puyallup Reservation waterfront, July 28. They will begin to make their way home on Aug. 4.
Join the Lopez community in welcoming these canoe families on their journey to Puyallup. This event is supported by an SJC Lodging Tax grant together with the generous support from the Lopez community, the Odlin Park staff, Friends of the San Juans and other agencies. For more information and to find out ways you can help, contact Marcia deChadenedes at email@example.com or Kai Sanburn, firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-468-4400.