Monday, July 18, 2011

Canoes Arrived Yesterday

They will have paddled away east at first light this morning. Story from this morning's paper.

The first canoe to land was from Quinault (Click for larger image.)

I almost didn't go to watch the landing. Since I was planning not to help out in the kitchen, I didn't feel that I ought to. But when the landing time began to approach, I couldn't stay away. I love the scripted ceremonial. I could listen a dozen times over (and get to do so) to, roughly, 'we have come from far away and are tired and hungry, may we land and share stories and songs with you' to which someone, perhaps a barely audible tiny child, replies in English and Klallam, 'Thankyou for coming to our territory. Come ashore, come ashore.' I thought on and off all afternoon about the other scripted ceremonial I am familiar with, the shuso ceremony at Tassajara and at Crestone, like this one no less moving for being prewritten.

Tlingit canoe, from Juneau, Alaska (Click for larger image.)
Ahousat (Click for larger image.)

This all happens not out on the rez but right in Port Angeles Harbor on the beach in front of the Red Lion Inn. It is the tribe's annual reminder to the town that the last Klallam were displaced from the townsite and moved out to the present rez only about 80 years ago, and it was once all theirs. (The temptation is great to try to frame the photos to leave out the city dock, the motel, and so on. It's hard not to romanticize. But it ain't romantic. It is the restoration of the continuity of culture.)

On the beach (Click for larger image.)

The canoes spend the night on the beach below the motel, and everyone goes by van and car out to Elwha, where their support crews have set up camp and the festivities begin. They dance and sing much of the night, then climb back into the canoes in the morning, early if the tide says so, and pull away to the next landing. Day after day. A hundred canoes will arrive at Swinomish, this year's host, on July 27.

The landing schedule map. It's really complicated this year. (Click for larger image.)

PS It was warm mild and foggy, later colder and came on to drizzling...

PPS Mural on the Feiro Marine Life Center, showing the very same beach some time before about 1860. HistoryLink tells about the early days around 1850 when settlers first arrived to live among the Klallam, and descriptions of the village of I'e'nis.

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