Puyallup Tribe to host Youth Canoe Journey from July 31 to Aug. 5

Canoe with support boat


By Puyallup Tribal News staff

Canoe Journey is taking shape differently in 2024 than in previous years. The Ahousaht First Nation band, located off Vancouver Island, was initially slated to host one of the year’s biggest cultural events but had to pull out due to logistical challenges.

After Ahousaht declined, the Puyallup Tribe started organizing the Power Paddle to Puyallup Youth Canoe Journey, with landing scheduled for July 31 at the Tribe’s Canoe Landing Site and more than 5,000 expected to attend Protocol from Aug. 1 to 5 at the Tribe’s property at 3509 72nd St. E, which has been the site of Firecracker Alley in recent years.

Heritage Division Manager Connie McCloud took a few minutes to talk about what to expect.

Puyallup Tribal News: Our goal here today is to discuss the upcoming Canoe Journey. It was on, then it was off, and then there was some talk about just doing the Youth Canoe Journey.

Connie McCloud: We saw on Facebook that Ahousaht, who was to host this summer, declined because they needed more time to prepare for hosting thousands of people. Ahousaht is a very small island off of the west side of Vancouver Island, and so people respected that.

Then the next day, I got another phone call from Tribal Council that said, “So, what are we going to do?” And I said, “Well, we’re thinking about doing a Youth Journey.” And they said, “Let’s do it. Let’s host.”

The whole point of this Youth Journey is to teach our children so that you have the adults, you have the Elders, working with the youth to train them to be in the leadership position. It doesn’t eliminate anybody. It puts the focus on training our youth. One of the things that we are going to do is we’re going to write a booklet of traditional teachings that come from the canoe journeys so that we can give it to all of our youth.

PTN: I liked what you said about youth in a canoe full of Elders. I’d like to touch on that some more if you’d elaborate on that idea.

McCloud: If your canoe is largely adults and Elders and you have two youth, how lucky are they? They have this handful of people who can give them instruction, give them teachings and show them a direction; put them up there doing the welcoming greetings, doing their Protocol, being that voice for your canoe. You’re going to teach them, you’re going to train them. It takes a village to raise our children.

When we did our local paddle (in 2018) we invited our Reentry program to participate with us, but they brought their wives, their girlfriends, their children, and they traveled with us. They learned and they participated in our circles. We all sat down, and we ate together. They were present. So, it’s not in any way eliminating the community. It’s drawing them in to focus on supporting our youth.

PTN: I know that you are training the youth to be respectful and to learn the traditional way. Are the parents also learning something from their kids?

McCloud: I learned that on canoe journeys you parent everyone regardless of how old they are. Everyone needs support. Everyone needs some direction. We all have different problems. When we’re working together in a camp of 50 people, and we’re moving hundreds of miles over a short period of time, you’re tired, you’re hungry. Sometimes this is all new territory for us. We don’t know where we’re going. We get lost, cars break down. Things happen, and it causes a lot of stress. So, then you’re working through that. You’re trying to stay involved, but it doesn’t mean that things don’t happen, you don’t get angry. But when it does, we all come together, and we try to figure it out.

PTN: How do you think the Canoe Journey affects people that are trying to stay on the right road and they’re fighting for sobriety?

McCloud: Most of the time, our canoe journeys are deeply spiritual. Our people that are coming are also looking for healing, whether they know it or not. But they’re there for a reason. You have this kind of spiritual connection that awakens inside of you. And so, if you’re having trouble with drugs and alcohol, relationships, being in this circle, being on the water is also very healing.

Visit the Puyallup Tribe Culture Department’s Facebook page @PuyallupCanoeFamily to find a link to sign up to volunteer and other important information.