Emerging from the horizon on Budd Inlet, members of the Squaxin Island Tribe community arrived on the shores of Swantown Marina in Olympia the third week of July as part of the Squaxin Canoe Journey.

During the three-day voyage, members of the Squaxin Island Canoe Family gathered to connect with local waterways and cultural heritage. Jaimie Cruz, vice chair of the Squaxin Island Tribal Council says the Squaxin Island Canoe Family has been traveling through waters that are traditional to the Squaxin people.

“Our Squaxin people are just trying to reawaken our ancestral highways, which is, you know, the water,” says Cruz.

Members of the Squaxin Island Tribe also decided to travel along local shores as an opportunity for Squaxin community members to become acquainted with the pulling process in a canoe. “It’s basically an opportunity for members who have never participated in the canoe journey to get a little taste of what it’s like going in a canoe, gathering for a meal and getting that experience,” says Cruz.

On the three-day voyage, Squaxin Island Canoe Family pulled along the coast in the South Puget Sound region, including stops throughout Mason and Thurston counties. The group will eventually join the Muckleshoot Canoe Journey, a major gathering of tribes from the Pacific Northwest and beyond. The Muckleshoot Canoe Journey is the first intertribal canoe journey in the region since 2019, says Cruz and is set to have multiple stops along the Puget Sound, as well as a week-long Protocol at the Muckleshoot Community Center in Auburn.

“Everyone’s excited that it’s back and that we’re just going to be able to be around with our friends and our family and catch up, sing, dance, tell stories,” says Cruz.

On the second day of the canoe journey, the Squaxin Island Canoe Family set out in the afternoon and came ashore at Swantown Marina in the evening, near sunset. Fellow Squaxin community members and Squaxin Island Tribe leadership welcomed canoe pullers as they came ashore. And as the travels continue, Squaxin community members are looking forward to further song, dance and gathering in the coming weeks during the Muckleshoot Canoe Journey.

“I just think it’s just really important, especially in today’s age, where we’re balancing so much mental health stress and being able to say okay, I’m going to be able to feed my spirit and be with people and share songs and stuff,” says Cruz. “It’s just real healing. It’s a really healing experience.”

To learn more about the Squaxin Island Canoe Family, visit the Squaxin Island Tribe website. To learn more about the Muckleshoot Canoe Journey, visit the Muckleshoot Canoe Journey website.

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