A gathering of more than 400 people from North Beach communities joined with the Quinault Indian Nation last week over dinner, dancing, drums and tribal crafts, to pull a few strokes closer to the upcoming Paddle to Quinault intertribal canoe journey.
Launched as an effort to build much-needed volunteer support to host the thousands of participants and crowds anticipated for the main event Aug. 1-6, the community dinner at the Ocean Shores Convention Center served both as an information-sharing forum and a bridge to build from.
“I hope this is the beginning of a stronger community between us,” said Ocean Shores Mayor Crystal Dingler, who helped spread the word about the dinner, which was entirely provided by the tribe. “We have so much in common and so many things we can do together to make Ocean Shores and the Quinault Nation stronger.”
“The Quinaults have done everything. We’re just showing up tonight, and you couldn’t ask for anything better than that,” Dingler said.
During the paddle event itself, an estimated 100 cedar canoes are expected to reach Point Grenville south of Taholah for a cultural festival that will greet the participating tribes. Many of the canoe teams are expected to arrive through Ocean Shores and stay in the area, and there is a need to plan for at least 15,000 people, the tribe estimates.
Canoe journey coordinator Guy Capoeman of the Quinault Nation welcomed the crowd by also emphasizing a theme of shared community.
“We all share a common thing, and that is this beach, and that’s this ocean and the waterways that are all around us,” Capoeman said. “That’s what the tribal journey is all about. It’s about relearning and reliving the waterways that our ancestors traveled on and sharing that knowledge with the young ones and with our neighboring communities.”
Also joining in the dinner were Westport Mayor Michael Bruce and Cosmopolis Mayor Vickie Raines.
Although the modern canoe journey dates back to 1989, launched by Quinault elder Emmit Oliver as the “Paddle to Seattle,” Capoeman noted it is a tradition that goes back several centuries “to a historic time when the Quinaults and our relatives lived all along these lands and used these waterways.”
Oliver is now 100 years old, and Capoeman paid homage to his vision to “leave a legacy for our younger people” by continuing the canoe journeys with big ocean-going canoes as part of the Washington State Centennial. The effort rekindled knowledge of carving and canoe making, and Capoeman is now a master carver who passes on his knowledge for others.
Capoeman introduced several Quinault Tribal Council members in attendance, and acknowledged their support for the canoe journey event, which has grown from 7,000 people to an estimated 12,000-13,000 people last year.
Tribal Council Member Richard Underwood, a veteran of life on the ocean, told of passing on the legacy of the lessons learned at sea through a mentoring process encompassing the canoe journey experience.
“One of the greatest pleasures I have had in my life is being able to work with our young men and women and mentor them the way that I was mentored,” he said.
Underwood pointed to a cedar canoe that was brought to the Convention Center and was on display for the community dinner.
“It’s important to recognize that canoe represents working together. It represents bringing your family closer, bringing your community closer,” he said. “It represents the commitment we have always had with the city of Ocean Shores, Ocean City, Copalis, Pacific Beach, Moclips, Westport. The things we need to work together on are there.”
The first landing for many of the canoes on the journey actually will be on July 31, Capoeman said, on South Beach landing about a mile north of the village of Queets.
“From there, we will head down to the cove and into Point Grenville, about four miles south of Taholah. That’s probably the safest place for all of us to land, so that’s why we’re going to land on that point,” he said.
The time for the landing is estimated at between 1 and 3 p.m.
“Confirmed so far, we have 86 canoes we know are coming,” Capoeman said to applause. “And we know over the next week and a half, that we will have some more.”
Hosting grounds are being prepared at Point Grenville, with 14 acres set aside on top of the hill for camping. Breakfast and dinner will be served each day, so volunteers are needed to help with food preparation, beach and site cleanup, traffic and parking, safety and security, medical/EMS, hospitality and information. Also needed are volunteer guests to provide hospitality for elders/vets who will need protocol assistance.
“All visitors are welcome, as is our tribal custom,” said Capoeman in an official news release by the tribe. “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 are a great means to teach our children about their roots, history and traditional ways. They also provide a good opportunity for non-tribal people to get to know more about us, and strengthen relations between Indian and non-Indian communities,” he said.
Although she did not attend the Ocean Shores community dinner, Quinault President Fawn Sharp also noted the significance of the event in the tribe’s news release: “The cedar canoe holds great meaning for tribes throughout the Northwest and western Canada. The annual journey reaches deep into the hearts and souls of our people—both young and old, and helps them fully realize the vitality and spiritual strength of their tribal identity, underscoring our hope for a sustainable and positive future.”
“We need volunteers to have a successful event of this magnitude,” said Sharp. “We will welcome one and all.”
Volunteers are welcome to register at www.PaddletoQuinault.org.