May 25, 2022
Canoe Encampment highlights earth, sky, water threats
Nancy DeVaux

Canoes traveling ancestral highways of the Lhaq’temish (Lummi) people arrive at Shipyard Cove on San Juan Island, part of a canoe encampment around the islands with a final stop and celebration at the Lummi Stommish Grounds on Friday. (Nancy DeVaux photo © 2022)

May 25, 2022
Canoe Encampment highlights earth, sky, water threats
Nancy DeVaux

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Four canoes glided into Shipyard Cove on San Juan Island on Monday afternoon, as part of a grassroots voyage following ancestral highways of the Lhaq’temish (Lummi) people.

The canoes waited offshore while, one at a time, a speaker rose in each to ask permission to come ashore. Event coordinator Freddie Sul ka dub Lane welcomed the paddlers in a powerful voice, and spoke of the significance of visiting their homeland in the San Juan Islands. Friday Harbor Mayor Ray Jackson also offered a welcome to each canoe. A song was song by one of the paddlers to honor women and mothers.

One canoe was a Hawaiian voyager canoe paddled by a family from Maui, another an octopus canoe from Lummi, and one was from Puyallup, with student paddlers from Chief Leschi High School.

It takes a village: a crowd pitches in to move a canoe ashore on San Juan Island. (Nancy DeVaux photo © 2022)

Instead of requesting permission to come ashore, the Stillaguamish Tribe canoe, Ishil yekwela, requested permission to depart, saying they had to return to the mainland to attend a Sustainability conference. “More good words will be spoken there,” their spokesperson said.

The Canoe Encampment,  Esqaplh etse Kwelengsen (Gathering of the Eagles), is led and designed by the Alliance of Earth, Sky and Water Protectors in the Pacific Northwest, to build solidarity across multiple campaigns tackling the threats of pipelines, tankers and other oil, gas and extractive industries across the lands and waters of the Salish Sea. It is not a tribally sanctioned event, but is coordinated by community leaders and organizers. 

Lane, who has directed past tribal canoe journeys and was road manager for the delivery of the Red Road to D.C. totem pole last summer, said the need for education and action is critical.

“We need to be ready, even the tribes need to be ready for the big oil spill,” he said — not a question of “if” but one of “when.” This week’s voyage is a strategy session for more action to come this summer.

“Moving forward in hope, healing, honor, happiness, and hospitality” is motto of the event.

The canoes left Anacortes’s Washington Park on Sunday, May 22, and landed at Odlin County Park on Lopez Island, where they were hosted  by a large crowd. On Monday they arrived at Shipyard Cover on San Juan Island, and on Wednesday paddled to Camp Orkila on Orcas island. At each stop the community has been welcomed to attend a full-regalia Coastal Jam at the Gathering of the Eagles with the canoe families sharing songs, stories and dance done “in the hope of inspiring the next generation of community building and organizing.”

The final encampment will be this weekend at at the Lummi Stommish Grounds (2100 Lummi View Drive) starting when canoes arrive at 4:00 p.m. Friday, and is open to the public. Celebrations will conclude on Saturday with a special honoring of master carver and elder Jewell Praying Wolf James (Se Sealth) of the House of Tears Carvers beginning at Noon at the Wex’liem Community Center.

— Reported by Nancy DeVaux

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photo: Amy Nelson © 2022
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