Nisqually Sovereign Nation: Canoe Journey 2016
Honor the Ancestors and Don't Forget the Water
Article and photos by Lloyd Vivola
Eighty-nine tribal and family canoes converged on the port of Olympia, Washington early Saturday afternoon, July 30, where they were invited ashore by Nisqually Sovereign Nation, host of this year's Salish Sea Canoe Journey. The canoe teams had pulled great distances over the last few weeks, some from as far away as Alaska and northern California, in what has become a recurring celebration of the waters which since the beginning of time have supported life and indigenous tradition around the Pacific Northwest. Canoes from upstate New York and eastern Long Island also joined in this year's paddling and protocol, thus extending the spirit of Canoe Journey and its confirmation of indigenous pride and cultural resilience clear across Great Turtle Island. Calls for solidarity in the cause of resistance to pipelines, coal terminals, and tanker traffic also punctuated the event.
Adding further to Canoe Journey and its significance was a Medicine Creek Treaty Tree ceremony held on Sunday at the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, recently renamed to honor esteemed Nisqually elder and fishing rights activist Billy Frank Jr. who crossed over in May 2014. It is the only wildlife reserve in the United States to bear the name of a Native American. Canoes from tribes which had signed the Medicine Creek Treaty in 1854 entered and landed in the Nisqually River Delta at high-tide to reaffirm symbolically, and not without hushed emotion, the importance of that document in the ongoing struggle to reclaim the legal and human rights of indigenous peoples across the continent and around the world.
Protocol for Canoe Journey 2016 will continue at Nisqually Nation through August 6.
Photos copyright Lloyd Vivola
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