Shell House Canoe Family joins Tribal Canoe Journey for the first time

Before the canoe gifting ceremony, canoe family members lifted the Willapa Spirit onto dry land.

Tribal Canoe Journey is an annual event that brings together tribal and First Nations communities to celebrate their shared heritage. Over days or weeks (depending on their starting point), large canoes navigate the waters of the Pacific Northwest to reach the host tribe for a full week of protocol and celebration.

This year, the Muckleshoot Tribe hosted, with about 100 canoes arriving at the final host destination of Alki Beach in West Seattle. Joining the journey this summer was the new Shell House Canoe Family, č̓away̓altxʷ ʔiišəd, made up of UW students, alumni, faculty, staff, elders and other community members. Their canoe is the Willapa Spirit Honor Canoe, once the honor canoe of Emmet Oliver, ’47, who founded the canoe journey in 1989 with the Paddle to Seattle. Oliver’s daughter, Marilyn Oliver-Bard, gifted the Willapa Spirit to the UW in a formal ceremony during the journey in July. Oliver’s son Marvin Oliver, UW professor emeritus of American Indian Studies, had done the artwork on the canoe. Tkaing more than a year to prepare, the UW canoe family carved paddles, trained as pullers, learned songs and protocols and coordinated logistics for each landing site. For many, it was their first time participating. For most, it won’t be their last.