It’s so great to know someone is reading these posts. Okay, you want more pictures. Let’s see if bandwidth permits. And we heard from one reader that some of our travels have even inspired bedtime stories!
So this post is for Midori, a young friend who has cruised with us in four countries. The first time – not on S/V Aurora – she travelled in utero. The most recent she cheerfully endured ceaseless rain and retired to what the Aurora crew now call “the house,” where she kept busy in the galley.
Several days ago we were honored to observe a little slice of a very important event: the Tribal Canoe Journeys 2014 Qatawas Festival. Right NOW there is a large gathering of the tribes in the remote Native community of Bella Bella, BC. More or less a halfway point on the Inside Passage, Bella Bella an excellent place for a meeting of tribes from the south and north: from Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, and probably even Oregon.
Building on recent experience and harkening back thousands of years, this happening has got everything: spiritual inspiration, culture strengthening, community building, story sharing, history documentation, wilderness discovery, technical re-skilling, and human-powered transport. The Ten Canoe Rules ensure the success of each tribal band, each canoe and each paddler.
I wish you’d been with us because this was so exciting and you would have liked it. Our boat was at anchor in a beautiful place called Fury Cove. It’s on Penrose Island north of Cape Caution many miles from any town or village.
We were preparing supper when suddenly we heard voices and drums in the distance. We rushed to the deck to listen as we’d heard a large group of Indians were paddling their canoes to meet in a village called Bella Bella. Unfortunately, the sounds faded in the distance so we figured the group had passed north on toward Bella Bella.
But then when we were doing the dishes in “the house”, we heard singing close by. We ran up on the deck and there was a canoe! They had paddled up the outside waters, rounded the point and come through the small entrance to the cove to spend the night.
We called to the paddlers. “Where are you from?”
“Washington State!” they replied.
“Are you Makkah?” I shouted. I thought this question was safe. It would not insult any other tribe because the Makkah are well-known for their canoe skills. They actually killed a whale from their canoes fifteen years ago.
“We’re Quinault.” they replied.
“Yeah!” I said, “We’re from the Olympic Pennensula, too!” In fact, many Quinault Indians live in Jefferson County just like we do. However, there are no roads across the Olympic Mountains so they live at some distance and we have not yet visited their independent Quinault Nation.
Then they went on to the beautiful shell beach that separates Fury Cove from the enormous Fitz Huge Sound to set up their camp.
As it was the end of the day, we got ready for bed. But then there was singing again!
The second canoe was black with a beautiful red design on the bow. Like the first canoe, it was hand made out of a tree trunk using traditional tools. But the shape was different because this was a different tribe. We didn’t get a chance to ask where they were from but it was a tribe from Canada not the United States.
And I must say they were fancier. They had a lot more style. Just look at how they held up their matching red paddles as they sang a final verse of their song before reaching land.
By this time, the Quinault Indians had already started building a campfire and so the Canadian Indians joined them.
Now you’re probably wondering how these paddlers could fit all their food and sleeping bags plus all of them into a canoe . Well, they didn’t have to. Each canoe on the Canoe Journey has an escort boat. These boats belong to older members of the tribe. They bring the food and supplies, carry the children and the elders, and assist in dangerous situations. For example, one dangerous situation was crossing Queen Charlotte Sound on a day when there were heavy winds. In this case, the power boats towed the canoes across the high waves. Except for that, however, the people in the canoes paddled using only their own breath and muscles. And just think. Some of them have to travel hundreds of miles to get back to their homes after the festival in Bella Bella!
Sorry about the out-of-focus picture. It was already night when I took it. The large blue fishing boat came with the group from British Columbia, and tied right onto the white boat that accompanied the young men and women from the Quinault Nation.
Since the next day was our longest and most difficult of the trip (we had to round Cape Caution) we had to go to bed. After the Quinault canoe returned with more food and supplies for the people around the campfire, I took one last photo.
But as we lay in our bunks we listened to the drumming and chanting on the shore. There were many songs. When different tribes get together like this they exchange stories and songs. And there were also more generic Indian camp songs. In fact, many of them sounded like the Indian songs we used to sing in Girl Scout camp that were collected from all over.
So this little piece of a big story, Midori, is just for you. Sweet dreams!