By this time next weekend, the beaches at Point Grenville will be flooded with ocean-going cedar canoes as Indian tribes from all over the West Coast and Puget Sound join the Quinault Indian Nation for its Paddle to Quinault celebration.
Event Coordinator Guy Capoeman said the nation expects about 100 canoes carrying between 800 and 900 paddlers. The tribe is preparing for a huge turnout of tribal and non-tribal visitors to the six-day event celebrating the canoe culture of Northwest Indian tribes. Promotional literature for the event says the Quinaults are expecting as many as 15,000 visitors.
“All visitors are welcome, as is our tribal custom,” Capoeman said. “The canoe journeys have always provided a great opportunity for tribes to get together, share our thoughts, stories, traditional dance and song and strengthen our bonds of friendship. They also provide a good opportunity for non-tribal people to get to know about us and strengthen relations between Indian and non-Indian communities.”
Shuttle bus service
While visitors are welcome, their cars are not. The tribe has set up an extensive and ambitious shuttle bus system, ferrying people from parking lots in Hoquiam, Ocean Shores, Pacific Beach, Amanda Park, Neilton, Queets and other locations. For a list of sites, timetables and explanations of the shuttle program, go to paddletoquinault.org. Information is available through the “maps” link.
The Quinault Indian Nation has seven canoes filled with various tribal members welcoming the newcomers to the beach. The tall ship Lady Washington will also join in welcoming the guests, accompanying the canoes along part of their journey.
Capoeman said any tribal members are welcome to climb aboard the canoes, “as long as they’re of sound body and can endure such hardships.”
The Paddle to Quinault is modeled after the 1989 Paddle to Seattle, which was organized by Emmett Oliver, a Quinault elder. Since then, other tribes have hosted paddle events, and the Quinault Indian Nation hosted a Paddle to Quinault in 2002.
Canoes are truly coming from far and wide. Capoeman said one group is coming from Hawaii, and Quinault Indian Nation President Fawn Sharp said a group of native New Zealanders, Maoris, will also attend. The groups flew to the West Coast and are paddling up the coast. But some tribes are travelling hundreds of miles by canoe. Several canoes from British Columbia tribes are expected.
“The event is really designed to bring people together, all up and down the West Coast and all over the world,” Sharp said. “So many tribes are dealing with similar issues.”
Organizing the event has been a huge undertaking for the nation. Many of the paddlers will camp at Point Grenville, located north of Taholah, which has been converted to a large camping area. Capoeman said electricity for the site will be provided through generators, and the nation brought in portable showers and laundry facilities.
The event will cost the Quinault Indian Nation about $2.5 million in site renovations, food and other hosting costs, Capoeman said.
“Things are really coming along well,” Capoeman said. “The tents are going up and the campgrounds are prepared.”
The Quinault Indian Nation let go its Chief of Police, its deputy chief and three other officers in early June, but Sharp said the diminished police force shouldn’t worry event attendees. She said they’ve hired security and are borrowing resources from other tribal police departments.
Sharp had hoped that First Lady Michelle Obama would be among those in attendance, but said Obama recently declined the invitation because she had already committed to a trip to Africa.
“I know she wanted to come, so maybe another time,” Sharp said.
For more information about the Paddle to Quinault or to sign up to volunteer, visit www.paddletoquinault.org or call 360-276-8211 ext. 1015.