Paddle to Squaxin 2012

On July 29, 2012, The Squaxin Island Tribe hosted the 24th annual Canoe Journey, Paddle to Squaxin 2012, an intertribal celebration of Pacific Northwest canoe culture and tradition. More than 100 canoes landed at the Port of Olympia, in Washington state, with thousands of people joining together to welcome each arrival.

Charlene Krise, Squaxin Island Museum Executive Director said, “The power of the canoe journey reaches into the very depths of the spirit, mind and body of our tribal people. The canoe journey is so powerful in helping to revive and empower tribal people. The Squaxin Island Tribe chose to honor the Teachings of Our Ancestors as our guide for Paddle to Squaxin 2012. These teachings are the center of our lives and cultures. Our ancestors teach us that we must care for each other, and the earth because each is a part of our past, present and future.”

For centuries, Pacific Northwest tribal people navigated the waterways in intricately carved dugout canoes. The Salish Sea, the body of water that encompasses Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Strait of Georgia in Canada, was the central force that connected canoe cultures for intertribal communication and trade. But early federal government mandates outlawed many tribal traditions, resulting in the almost lost art of canoe building, and ceremonial practices. In 1989, the Canoe Journey event, originally called the “Paddle to Seattle,” was organized as a revival of the canoe culture traditions and the Native American contribution to the Washington State Centennial. Today, tribes from Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, Canada, New Zealand, Japan and the Seminole Tribe in Florida participate.

The Bella Bella, from British Columbia, traveled more than 1,000 miles over 23 days. As the canoes arrive at the host site on July 29th, each canoe family asked for permission to come ashore, according to their own culture and protocol. Paddles were raised, signifying “We come in peace.”

The Squaxin Island Tribe then hosted a week of traditional potlatch ceremonies and festivities with daily performances by dancers, singers and storytellers. Potlatch ceremonies and performances took place on the Squaxin Island Reservation. The public was welcome but asked to respect ceremonies while in the protocol tent.

The Tribe partnered with the City of Olympia and the Port of Olympia on a transportation and parking plan to accommodate visitors and participants.

For additional information about activities in the surrounding Olympia and Thurston County area, visit,
Olympia | Lacey | Tumwater Convention Bureau website,
or call Toll-free: 1-877-704-7500; or (360) 704-7544.


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