When It Comes to Climate Change, We’re All in the Same Canoe

by Kim Marks

July 22, 2016

We're honored to join our Indigenous allies in the 2016 Pacific Northwest Canoe Journey, and we're giving you a window into the experience.

Pacific Northwest Canoe Journey

Image via Mitch Wenkus / Greenpeace.

For several years, Greenpeace has been working with Tribes and First Nations in the Pacific Northwest to fight fossil fuel extraction projects. After some work against coal export terminals in the region with people like community garden technician Grace Ann Byrd and Tribal councilmember Hanford McCloud, both from the Nisqually Tribe, we were invited to join the Canoe Journey in 2014.

What is the Canoe Journey? It’s summed up well here in an excerpt from the Nisqually website:

“Tribes and First Nations have traveled by canoe and gathered for celebrations for thousands of years.

“The canoe tradition faded with the use of motorboats in the late 1800s. Through the 1970s and mid-1980s, the canoe culture began a revival with tribes traveling from one nation to another. The first official Canoe Journey annual celebration as it is known today began in 1989 with the Paddle to Seattle as part of Washington State’s Centennial celebration.

“Canoe Families from the Pacific Northwest, including Alaska and Canada, participate in the annual events. Canoe Journeys are one of the largest traditional gatherings of indigenous people anywhere in the world, with Native peoples traveling from Hawaii, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, and South America. As many as 84 canoes from 50 tribes and Canadian First Nation groups have participated in recent journeys. Host tribes have fed and accommodated over 10,000 people in the final week of welcoming ceremonies, which includes traditional drumming, dancing, and songs. Many tribes organize their summer activities around Canoe Journeys.”

In 2014, we joined the Green Team — a Canoe Journey initiative to reduce waste by organizing recycling and compost collection — in Bella Bella, British Columbia for the multi-day event. We were then formally challenged by Chief Bill Williams, one of 16 hereditary chiefs of the Squamish Nationto get into a canoe and pull (paddle) at the 2016 Canoe Journey.

We were humbled by this honor and have responded to the challenge by joining the Squamish Canoe Family this year with a larger team of Greenpeace USA and Greenpeace Canada staff and local organizers. We are excited to participate and deepen our learning of Coast Salish culture, strengthen our collaborations to protect the ocean, and fight the drivers and local impacts of climate change.

Our group joined the Canoe Journey at the Lummi Nation outside of Bellingham, Washington a few days ago and will be stopping at different Indigenous territories on our way to our final landing in Nisqually on July 30.

To give you an window into this journey with us, we’ll be sharing photos, videos, and reflections along the way. Here’s a taste:

Stay tuned for more in the coming weeks.

By Kim Marks

Kim Marks is part of the grassroots organizing team at Greenpeace USA.

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