Canoe Family begins annual journey on July 19

07.13.2018 Danielle Frost Culture, People, Events

By Danielle Frost

The Grand Ronde Canoe Family and Tribal support staff are set to begin the annual Canoe Journey when they leave Grand Ronde on Thursday, July 19, for St. Helens on the shores of the Columbia River.

Fifty Canoe Family members will practice paddling in the Columbia River for three days to become adept at navigating before they begin the miles of paddling starting from Samish, Wash., and ending in Puyallup, Wash. Stops are scheduled to occur at Swinomish, Tulalip, Suquamish and Muckleshoot.

This year’s Canoe Journey is hosted by the Puyallup Tribe of Indians and has the theme “Honoring Our Medicine.”

Landing Day is Saturday, July 28, and protocol will start on Sunday, July 29, and run through Saturday, Aug. 4, and attracts thousands. It includes singing, dancing, sharing stories and food. The order of protocol is the Tribe that travels the farthest to attend goes first.

According to the website,, 99 canoes are registered for the event, representing approximately 68 Tribes, First Nations and interTribal groups from all over the Northwest.

Grand Ronde’s Canoe Family first participated in the 2005 Canoe Journey, which landed on Hollywood Beach in Port Angeles, Wash.

The Canoe Journey began in 1989 with the “Paddle to Seattle,” which was held in conjunction with Washington’s 100th anniversary of statehood. That year, the state and indigenous governments signed the Centennial Accord, recognizing indigenous sovereignty. Fifteen Tribes and First Nations participated in the Paddle to Seattle.

Today, upwards of 100 canoes representing as many as 90 U.S. Tribes and Canadian First Nations, and approximately 12,000 people participate in the annual journey, paddling canoes, operating support boats, acting as ground crew, singing, dancing and sharing their cultures and traditions. 

Canoe Journey was designed as a family-friendly event to familiarize northwest Tribes with the trade routes used by their ancestors and to promote a healthy lifestyle free of substance abuse.