By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News
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The canoe journey of Native Americans from the Pacific Northwest, Canada and other areas will end in a celebration at the end of the month hosted by the Squaxin Island tribe in Kamilche near Shelton.
Paddle Journey pullers from the Quinault tribe will be welcomed formally by the Quileute at the mouth of the Quillayute River between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.
“This is our old highway system,” said Ann Penn-Charles, Quileute tribal drug- and alcohol-prevention specialist and an organizer of the Quileute canoe journeys.
A new canoe, the Sea Hawk, built by high school students at the Quileute Tribal School, will join the Good Health, Sea Wolf and Othabelitc in the Quileute's small fleet of traditional craft.
The Sea Hawk will be blessed today at LaPush, Penn-Charles said.
Penn-Charles explained that pulling and the canoe journeys are a revival of cultural traditions.
The journeys are especially valued in helping tribal members with drug or alcohol problems reconnect with tribal values, she said.
Several new young members will be trying to earn a place on the canoes as well, she said.
She said that next year, when the Quinault host the 2013 “Paddle to Quinault” Paddle Journey, the Quileute pullers will meet the fleet of visiting canoes in Neah Bay and support them with information on how to work with the open ocean, which can be a different challenge from the waterways of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the inland bays and canals.
“We're like a family out there. It does not matter what tribe we're from. We all try to help each other out,” Penn-Charles said.
The Hoh tribe is expected to truck their canoes into LaPush and depart with the Quileute and Quinault pullers early Friday morning.
The Hoh blessed a new canoe Wednesday, Penn-Charles said.
This year, organizers expect more than 12,000 individuals and more than 100 canoes from 90 U.S. tribes and Canadian First Nations.
The gathering may include people from Hawaii, Japan, the New Zealand Maori tribe and Florida's Seminole tribe.
An estimated 12,000 people participate in the annual Tribal Canoe Journeys.
On Saturday, the Makah will welcome the pullers to Neah Bay.
More than 30 canoes are expected to arrive Monday at Hollywood Beach in Port Angeles, to be greeted by two canoes from the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe.
Port Angeles is the focal point where two groups — one from Vancouver Island and one from the Oregon and Washington coast — converge before traveling east and south, with the addition of the Elwha's canoes.
Paddlers will stay in Port Angeles through Tuesday.
The canoes will be welcomed the next day, Wednesday, in Jamestown by the Jamestown S'Klallam tribe.
Canoes will arrive in Port Townsend next Thursday at Fort Worden State Park.
The formal landing will take place July 28 in Olympia, followed by the Celebration and Potlatch Protocol from July 30 to Aug. 5 in Kamilche.
The modern incarnation of canoe journeys began in 1989 when the Suquamish tribe introduced the “Paddle to Seattle.”
In 1993, the Heiltsuk Nation in Bella Bella, B.C., invited the Pacific Northwest canoe nations to the Qutawas Festival — and to get there by canoe.
For the second journey, 28 canoes arrived in Bella Bella, and since then, the event has been hosted by a different tribe each year.
The Canoe Journey will return to Bella Bella in 2014.
The Lower Elwha Klallam hosted the event in 2005, the Quinault in 2002 and the Quileute in 1997.
More information about the event can be found at www.paddletosquaxin2012.org.
Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at email@example.com.