By Betsy Pernotto, Paddle to Lummi 2019 Community Connections Committee
Photo courtesy of Beau Garreau.
Aerial photo of canoes arriving at Lummi Nation’s Stommish grounds in 2018 on their way to a gathering in Puyallup.
Organizers of the Paddle to Lummi 2019 are expecting more than 100 canoe families to come ashore at Lummi Nation on July 24, 2019.
The canoes are coming!
From July 24 to July 28, Lummi Nation will host the Paddle to Lummi 2019, Sqweshenet Tse Schelangen/Honoring Our Way of Life. As many as 100 canoe families from throughout Washington, Vancouver Island, and the coast of British Columbia will ask permission to come ashore onto Lummi territory on July 24 for the annual Tribal Canoe Journey. Native Hawaiians, Maori, and Papua New Guineans were also invited to participate in this historic event.
Four days of ceremonies and celebration will follow the canoe landings. Tribes will share their traditional stories, songs, and dances with each other at Lummi Wex’liem Center.
On the final day of Paddle to Lummi, Lummi Nation will host a potlatch, giving away handmade gifts to the many guests who attend the event.
Dancers share a traditional dance during the Paddle to Lummi in 2007.
Photo courtesy of Beth Brownfield.
Lummi dancers participate in an event at the Lummi community center.
Photo courtesy of Jon Carroll.
The canoe journey was reinvigorated in 1989, when seven canoes participated in the Paddle to Seattle, which sparked new interest among Indigenous people—many of whom had not practiced canoe society traditions for many years—to learn and revive coastal cultural traditions. Since then, the Canoe Journey has rotated to different destinations along the Pacific Northwest Coast.
Documentary filmmaker Mark Celletti (Journey to Squaxin Island  and 2008 Canoe Way: The Sacred Journey) said, “The revival of cedar canoe culture and Tribal Journeys is one of the most significant cultural movements of our time. It serves as an example of healing through tradition for indigenous cultures throughout the world.”
In the canoe, as in life, whatever they have going on, they have to pull through it.
Becky Kinley, special events coordinator for Lummi Nation said, “Participating in the Canoe Journey teaches our youth strong [Lummi] pride. In the canoe, as in life, whatever they have going on, they have to pull through it.”
Canoe pullers train for months to make the arduous journey in which they might be paddling for hours at a time for several weeks. The Canoe Journey is a drug- and alcohol-free event, and some canoe families are also smoke-free.
Canoes arrive at Lummi Nation’s Stommish grounds in 2018 on their way to a gathering in Puyallup. As per tradition, Lummi Nation Chief Bill James welcomes canoes to come ashore and share food and dance.
Photos courtesy of Jon Carroll and Beau Garreau.
Paddle to Lummi
As the hosts, Lummi Nation will welcome 10,000 people to their shores and feed 5,000 or more guests each day. They will also provide camping facilities, showers, and bathrooms for the visiting canoe families; activities and spaces for youth and elders; and give handmade gifts to the estimated 10,000 guests.
Lummi Nation will welcome 10,000 people to their shores and feed 5,000 or more guests each day.
“The Lummi people are honored to welcome all our relations traveling the traditional highways of the ancestors to participate in this year’s journey,” said Jeremiah Julius, tribal chairman of the Lummi Indian Business Council. “Together we will celebrate, honor, and preserve the unique cultural heritage of the Coast Salish people.”
The Lummi people are honored to welcome all our relations traveling the traditional highways of the ancestors.
Paddle to Lummi 2019 is an opportunity for white settlers to learn about the culture of the Coast Salish people and to honor the first inhabitants of these lands and waters.
The event is free, open to the public, and family friendly.
Canoes will land at Lummi on the morning of July 24. Dances and celebrations will continue at Lummi Wex’liem Center from July 24–28.
Your support for the Tribal Canoe Journey can strengthen and repair relationships between Lummi Nation and the surrounding community, honor the first inhabitants of these lands and waters, and help revitalize Native culture and identity.
Ways you can support this magnificent cultural event—
- Shop—Saturday, July 20, Community Shopping Days at the Co-op to benefit the Paddle to Lummi
- Donate—via the official Paddle to Lummi gofundme
- Attend—July 24–28 at Lummi Nation
- Watch—videos documenting previous canoe journeys at
bit.ly/TribalJourneys2017 and bit.ly/CanoeJourney2017Video