Youth involved with NIȽ TU,O will soon be participating in Tribal Journeys, once important safety, cultural protocols and training is in place. 

(Shown above, Staff & community members with the newly painted dugout canoe, nicknamed Big Raven. This is one of two canoes being prepared for youth participation in Tribal Journeys.)

Tribal Journeys is a traditional activity Coast Salish communities participate in every spring and summer to connect with culture and friends and relatives in other towns and villages. Members from villages paddle out to other communities in stunning carved cedar canoes. Upon arrival, the visiting community shares the songs, dances, and stories of their area. Then, the receiving community shares its own songs, dances, and stories. Then the two communities join together for a meal and visiting.  

Participants in Tribal Journeys often paddle hundreds of miles within Coast Salish Territory in Canada and down to Lummi, located in Washington State. Tribal Journeys is a beautiful yearly practice that supersedes colonial boundaries. 

NIȽ TU,O is currently working to make it possible for the youth affiliated with the seven communities NIȽ TU,O serves to take part in this important traditional practice. In fact, there are already two canoes ready to facilitate youth participation in the 2024 Tribal Journeys. One is a recently completed dugout canoe and the other is a yet-to-be-painted cedar strip canoe.

NIȽ TU,O youth participated in the carving of the dugout canoe earlier this year. NIȽ TU,O Family Support Worker Vanessa Boylan shared, “It was amazing to see the strength of the kids during the construction process.”  The dugout canoe is now painted and nearly ready to be taken on the water. The 36’ cedar-strip canoe was made locally by Len Morris. 

Shown above: Len Morris and his mother, with the cedar-strip canoe made for NIȽ TU,O youth

Len Morris, who worked on the canoe, says he is excited for the kids at NIȽ TU,O to be exposed to Tribal Journeys, not only because paddling is part of a healthy lifestyle, but because it’s a great opportunity for youth to enjoy themselves while engaging in a cultural practice. “Just to be on the water. It’s so soothing,” Len says. “Once you’ve experienced it, it’s so much fun.”

While NIȽ TU,O originally planned to join Tribal Journeys in the summer of 2023, there are a few important cultural and safety protocols that NIȽ TU,O must complete before moving forward.

The cedar-strip canoe needs to be painted and both canoes must receive a blessing, which is in part given with a song. The song is almost ready and the blessing ceremony will take place in the Fall. 

In addition to adhering to important cultural protocol, NIȽ TU,O is also diligent about adhering to safety protocols, especially because Tribal Journeys involves paddling across the currents of the Pacific Ocean. Part of the preparation for the journey means NIȽ TU,O Child and Family Services Society staff are getting training in water and paddling protocol and must operate a support boat along with a trailer and camper for first aid.

Meanwhile, youth will engage in related cultural activities to prepare for their first Tribal Journey including making regalia, carving paddles, preparing songs and drumming to share upon their arrival at other communities.

The participation of NIȽ TU,O youth in care in the Tribal Journeys is an important reclamation of Coast Salish culture, as Tribal Journeys were halted during colonization. 

Recently, the resurgence of Tribal Journeys has been highlighted in an immersive, traveling exhibit called Sacred Journey. 

“Pulling a canoe on the ocean for several weeks at a time helps to RECONNECT our youth with the land, sea, and ancient practices,” the exhibit shares. “It allows them to experience the HEALING POWER OF NATURE that supports their transformative spiritual, cultural, emotional, and social well-being.”

NIȽ TU,O looks forward to making this powerful practice available to Coast Salish youth in care, once the proper protocols are observed.

Stay tuned for the latest updates on NIȽ TU,O’s canoes and the anticipated start date for NIȽ TU,O’s participation in Tribal Journeys. 

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