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Coast Salish canoes visit the San Juans this week

Lootie and Smitty Hillaire of the Lummi Indian Nation welcome canoes to Roche Harbor during the 2004 Canoe Journey. Canoes are visiting the San Juans this week en route to the territory of the Cowichan First Nation in Duncan, B.C.       - File photo / Richard Walker
Lootie and Smitty Hillaire of the Lummi Indian Nation welcome canoes to Roche Harbor during the 2004 Canoe Journey. Canoes are visiting the San Juans this week en route to the territory of the Cowichan First Nation in Duncan, B.C.
— image credit: File photo / Richard Walker

Lummi, Nooksack, Samish, Suquamish, Swinomish and Tulalip canoes arrive in the San Juans this week en route to Duncan, B.C., as part of the 2008 Canoe Journey.

Canoes will stop at Shaw Island today and Roche Harbor on Thursday. The Canoe Journey last visited the San Juans in 2004.

The Canoe Journey is a cultural connection like no other: With the cedar, which for millennia has provided material for art, canoes, clothing, fishing nets and houses; with the water, the marine highway for coastal peoples since time immemorial; and with extended families across the Northwest Coast. It’s also an intense athletic event; some canoes travel for hundreds of miles to get to the final destination, and each puller has to be mentally, physically and spiritually disciplined.

At each stop along the Canoe Journey, the public can watch the colorful, soulful arrival of the canoes: Colorful, because each canoe and paddle is an elaborately carved work of art; and soulful, because many of the canoe families keep time to songs, which often come to them on the water.

On the shore, in keeping with tradition, canoe families ask permission β€” often in their own languages β€” to enter and leave each territory.

There will be a free community welcome dinner on Thursday, 7 p.m., at Roche Harbor to welcome the canoe families. Volunteers are needed; call Stephanie Buffum-Field of Friends of the San Juans, 378-2319.

The Canoe Journey ends in the territory of the Cowichan First Nation, which also hosts the 2008 North American Indigenous Games.

Local welcoming sponsors include Bison Gallery, Kitchen Garden, Marine Resources Committee, Northwest Straits Commission, Portals of Welcome Committee, Port of Friday Harbor, Roche Harbor Resort and Marina, San Juan Initiative, San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau amd Scenic Byways Committee, Shaw Store, Soroptimist International of Friday Harbor, The Whale Museum, and U.W. Friday Harbor Labs.

β€” Want to help? Call 378-2319. Escort boats are needed for the Haro Strait crossing Saturday, departing at 8 a.m. Donations are needed for ferry tickets for ground crew travel.

Community Events, April 2014

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