Cow Creek Tribe Participates in Paddle to Muckleshoot Intertribal Canoe Journey

The Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians officially participated in the Muckleshoot Intertribal Canoe Journey, named “Paddle to Muckleshoot,” for the first time. Sharing a canoe with Doug Barrett of the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians (CTCLUSI), six Tribal members departed on July 25 from the Elwha Indian Reservation in Port Angeles, WA, alongside dozens of canoes from other Tribes.

For five days, the canoes traveled northward, stopping each night at Tribal reservations along the route. Their route took them first to Jamestown, then Port Townsend, then Port Gamble, then in Suquamish, and finally to Alki Beach on the Muckleshoot reservation.

Despite the tiring work of paddling, many of the participants found a deeper meaning in the journey.

“I realized how much anger I had built up,” says one Cow Creek Umpqua youth, “and I was able to let it go and leave it there, while learning how to be more grateful.”

“I learned that I had more patience than I ever thought I did, and to take in the good energy of the people around me,” said another Cow Creek youth.

These canoe journeys first began in 1989, during the Suquamish Tribe’s “Paddle to Seattle,” but has grown and become a life-changing event for those who participate.  In fact, the Life Skills Instructor’s Manual, a canoeing guide, has been listed as a best practice in Washington and Oregon State, and was further confirmed by a paper by Dr. John Spence and Caroline M. Cruz, titled “Oregon Tribal Evidence-Based and Cultural Best Practices.

Not only does the canoe journey provide a spiritual and physical journey, it also allows Tribal citizens from many nations to share and become immersed in each others’ cultures. This occurs during the journey, and the days-long protocol afterward, held this year from July 31 – August 6.

The daily routine of the journey was as follows:

  • Wake up early, usually between 3 – 4:30 AM to take down tents and place bags and tents with the ground crew.
  • Help other Tribes carry their canoe to the water, in exchange for help carrying their own canoe to the water.
  • Paddling for 5-8 hours a day
  • Pulling up to each Tribal land, requesting permission to come ashore and join in food and prayers
  • Dinner at 5:30 PM with a Protocol Ceremony afterward

“As we came ashore each day, the youth would request—even with minimal sleep—to stay and help all the remaining canoe families to carry their canoe ashore so we can all rest until until dinner,” said Jesse Spain, Cow Creek Umpqua Tribal member and Chemical Dependency Counselor. “Every day, I would gather the boys together and encourage them to push through the pain, their tired bodies and minds, and focus on what needed to get done that day. We were not paddling the canoe for ourselves, we are paddling it for all the warriors past, present, and future, and for those who cannot be here with us. Every day, I was inspired by their hard work and commitment to the journey.”

The canoe shared by the Cow Creek Umpqua and CTCLUSI was one of the heaviest canoes present, with only six paddlers, four of which were youth.

“I am beyond proud of the four youth that gave up a week of their summer to come and put in the hard work and participate in the ceremonies,” said Whitney Yeust, Cow Creek Prevention Coordinator.