SPOKANE, Wash. – Visitors to the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture In the past two months, I might have noticed a group of people carving canoes out of two century-old cedar logs.
Members of some of the indigenous tribes in the northwest interior have been holding the demonstration since March at the museum, as part of the resurgence of traditional Aboriginal canoeing culture.
“We’re here to show people our efforts to revitalize our language and our culture,” said Spokane Tribe member Devon Peone.
“It’s been over 70 years since we’ve seen a canoe come up the river, so it’s part of the reintroduction and re-education for everyone here – to show that we’re still here and doing whatever it takes. our ancestors did.”
One of the main goals is to bring salmon home to the Spokane and Columbia rivers, which have dams blocking their path. Salmon are a keystone species for many native ecosystems and cultures.
“In June, during the summer solstice, we have a salmon ceremony at Kettle Falls with all the local tribes in the area. This is how we call the salmon back to come up the Columbia and Spokane and up in Kettle Falls,” said Craig Hill.
Hill is a member of the Spokane tribe and the main presenter of the Canoe Carving Demonstration, a role he describes as “being the question and answer guy”.
“Sculpting these canoes and launching them is a big part of that as well,” Hill said.
The project offers a special opportunity for reconnection and hopefully a piece of the larger puzzle.
“It’s very, very powerful – the energy, the love, the camaraderie that happens here,” Peone said. “To see it between the tribes and then also the community and the city. That’s the goal, to bring us together and so that we can all move together in a better and healing way.”
“This is just the beginning, we’re going to see a lot more interaction between tribes and community for our healing,” Peone continued. “The dream is 100 canoes going up the river. Families, children, elders going up the river together to pray for the salmon.
The first phase of the canoe carving process was completed over Memorial Day weekend. The two canoes will be exhibited at 37th edition of Mac ArtFest— taking place June 3-5 at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture — before wrapping up over the summer.