Native American and Canadian First Nations paddlers in traditional canoes will arrive in Jamestown today on their way to a weeklong potlatch at Squaxin Island near Shelton, WA. The Paddle to Squaxin 2012 is this year’s version of a now annual cultural revival. Tribe members from Western Washington and Canada paddle to the potlatch location, stopping for celebrations hosted by local tribes along the waterway routes. Tonight the Jamestown S’Klallam will welcome up to 25 canoes from 10 to 12 tribes on their way to Squaxin.
The potlatch at the final destination is hosted by a different tribe each year. I took these photos two years ago as paddlers journeyed to the Makah Reservation at Neah Bay. The canoes were gorgeous. Many were hand carved from cedar logs. They can carry eight or more paddlers, called “pullers.” There are formal landing and departure protocols at each landing site and tribes sing and dance during their visits.