Paddle to Muckleshoot Preview

By Molly Bryant, Puyallup Tribal News

The Puyallup Canoe Family will celebrate the Tribe’s traditional mode of transportation by paddling on ancestral waterways for the 2023 Paddle to Muckleshoot Canoe Journey.

From July 27 to July 30, the family will travel from the Puyallup Canoe landing site on Marine View Drive to Manchester State Park near Port Orchard. From there, they will travel to the Suquamish reservation and, finally, to the Alki Beach landing site.

The journey will be followed by a potlatch that starts on July 31 at the newly built Muckleshoot Community Center and will continue for 24 hours a day through Aug. 6. Canoe families will perform their traditional songs and dances and offer gifts to express their thanks and generosity.

The Canoe Journey is a celebration of Pacific Northwest Tribes. There will be approximately 130 canoes traveling from as far north as Bella Bella, B.C., and as far south as the lower Columbia River.

The first Canoe Journey was the Paddle to Seattle journey in 1989. It was established by the late Emmett Oliver of the Quinault Nation. It was meant to commemorate the Washington State Centennial. According to the Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs, Tribes signed the Centennial Accord then to improve relations between Tribes and the State Government.

Heritage Division Manager Connie McCloud has been involved with the Puyallup Tribe’s participation in Canoe Journey since the late ‘90s. She says she became interested after receiving many calls from Canada. The T’Sou-ke Tribe, located in what is now known as Vancouver Island, offered to carve a canoe for the Puyallup Tribe. Ever since then, the Puyallup Tribe has been involved.

Many participants say it is a life-changing experience.

“It’s really a very significant cultural, spiritual, emotional and social experience,” McCloud said. “It doesn’t happen in a vacuum. What you see, what you witness, what you do, is really all very impactful. It awakens your spirit is really what it does. People connect with that, and they have a lot of opportunities to learn about our culture. It really was what helped bring back our language or culture or songs or dances.”

McCloud has met many influential leaders from around Indian Country through the Canoe Journey. Her travels have taken her to North Dakota, Switzerland and China. “I have just learned so much it can contribute it to my own spiritual cultural growth,” she said.

Everybody is welcome to come to the Canoe Journey events. It is one of the few gatherings of its size that is drug, alcohol and tobacco-free.

For more information, contact the Culture Department at 253-312-5069 or visit their Facebook page