Malahat Nation members were invited this year to an event that takes place in Quinault, Washington state, Tribal Journeys. For those of you who don’t know, it is not a canoe race. It’s a peaceful gathering held for many nations to come together as one.
The paddlers and community members of Malahat Nation were only notified and asked if they were interested in participating in Tribal Journeys in May 3013. This gave the Malahat Nation paddlers an exciting challenge to live up to because they only had two months to prepare and train for such a great journey.
The canoe practices started almost instantly once members of the community approved of such an exciting idea. The canoe practices took place down at the Malahat beach. The Malahat Nation members started off with training on the six-man canoe. The practices started at five o’clock in the afternoon, Monday to Friday. At first there were only about six people at the beginning days of practice, but as the days went on, more and more people in the community decided to join and support their fellow paddlers. As more people started participating in canoe practice, it encouraged a few of others to join in on the fun. Many of Malahat Nation members were only spectators and cheered on their fellow paddlers. There were a small number of people, mainly the youth, who wanted to participate in the Tribal Journeys event and so attended practice every day.
The majority of the community members being down at the beach even encouraged the staff of Malahat band office to participate in Tribal Journeys. As the number of the community members started expanding in participation, the paddler instructors felt confident enough to bring everybody out on the fifteen man canoe. After that it influenced more people to come try out the exciting activity. As time went on, there were enough people to bring out the six-man canoe, and the fifteen-man canoe, at the same time!
It was very exciting for the older members of the nation to see practically the whole community down at the beach every day. It even influenced former paddlers from a generation before to decide to hop on the canoes for fun. It especially warmed the hearts of the elders of Malahat nation to see the younglings and former paddlers taking part in the training process. It inspired the younger paddlers to live up to their expectations to see the former paddlers giving paddling another go!
There were many skills that the paddlers had to obtain, like when they were out on the water, paddling in the canoe, they had to learn how to keep in sync with the strokes; they also had to work on building their strength and stamina to keep up with their fellow paddlers. The paddlers were even told that they should watch what they ate and drank; it wasn’t a demand but a recommendation by their instructors and elders to stay away from sugary food or drinks, because it would weaken their stamina.
Another thing that was a challenge was that they had to commit their free time to going to practice every day. It was tough, but everybody still followed through, participating every day. There was a few times where the paddlers started to feel discouraged, but their team players made sure to keep pushing the encouragement so that everyone would still feel the worth of being dedicated.
Since it was Malahat’s first year attending the traditional canoe sport; the paddlers were learning new things every day. It was a major event, and it was most definitely a new experience to endure. It was a tough commitment to live up to, but that didn’t stop Malahat Nation members from being devoted to the upcoming challenge. If anything, the challenge even inspired the people of the community.
Besides the physical role the paddlers had to learn, being down at practice every day enabled the whole community to build friendly relationships. They practised their patience and even learned how to trust and respect each other at a whole new level that was never really recognised amongst each other before. Many of the staff members of Malahat Nation shared that the youth really inspired the adults of the community to get along with each other! This helped the process of coming together as one more effectively.
Malahat Nation is quite the small community. Since there was only two months to prepare, organizing it was hard. Malahat Nation had to ask another nation to borrow their Tribal Journey canoe. The Malahat Nation held traditional potlatches every Wednesday for the community to feast and talk about Tribal Journeys. The elders and coaches gave their words of encouragement to their nations’ paddlers. Once the word got out that the Malahat Nation would be attending the Tribal Journeys event, it attracted people from other nations to come and join the meetings to pass on their words of wisdom to the Malahat nations paddlers.
The great journey started off in Beacher Bay, and then continued from Beacher bay to Makah, Makah to Quileute, Quileute to Hoh River, Hoh River to Queets, and then, finally, from Queets to Quinault. The paddlers that played a role in the paddle to Quinault shared that it was physically exhausting. They shared that they wish were they were dressed for the drastic elements. One paddler also shared that they got wind burn from the harsh gusts of wind, and from being out on the water for so long. Being in what seemed to be the middle of nowhere made it hard to eat snacks on the small breaks that they were taking. The waves being so rowdy made is especially difficult for some of the paddlers’ queasy stomachs. The paddlers and passengers shared that it was exciting to see how big the waves were compared to ocean currents back in Malahat. The water got calmer once they hit the rivers. Another paddler shared that the rest of the paddling went smoothly from there.
The experience gave the participating paddlers a great sense of pride and accomplishment and a memorable experience that they will always hold on to. The participating paddlers’ courage made their fellow community members very proud to see them follow through with such a challenge.
Many of the community members shared that they were fascinated with the traditional songs and seeing the dances that were shared, and the different types of gowns and costumes they had witnessed. One of the paddlers even shared that they enjoyed the compassion that the other nations showed towards Malahat Nation. They made Malahat feel comfortable and welcome; they always made sure they were fed and taken care of. This was very impressive since many of the people there hadn’t even known of Malahat Nation’s existence. Many nations over in Quinault kept asking where Malahat was, and who they were. The Malahat Nation members were proud to share where we were located and shared a little bit of Malahat’s history. As soon as the community returned home, the Malahat nation paddlers’ instructors and elders started plotting songs and dances that they could share at the next Tribal Journey.
Besides some minor issues, many members of the community felt that it was a good experience to learn from. It gave them an opportunity to live outside the Malahat Nation community; they learned to live together and to work with each other. The outcome of some of the minor issues just gave our nation an insight to what they need to work on and what they need to strengthen in such categories for future participation. Some of the people shared that they hope to have a longer time period to train for future Tribal Journeys. Many people in the community share a sense of pride and even felt that the experience helped the members grow as one. Many adults shared that they really admired the youth members that participated because of how happy they always were, food or no food, sleep or no sleep, good or bad times, they were still always able to have fun and get along and to communicate with each other so well. One staff in the department of Malahat nation even feels that the older generations could learn stuff from the youth and hope that it’ll stay that way amongst each other, in the future.
Besides being a part of the cultural values and meeting new nations, it was Malahat Nations goal for our community members to come together as a whole, to be able to work together as team players, for our community members to build friendly relationships with each other, and to have better understanding and good communication with each other. Which is what many people felt was very successful because we achieved our goal.
The Malahat Nation definitely learned many new things and to come together peacefully. Many of the younger generation hope to be a part of future participations in the peaceful, Tribal Journeys. Next year’s Tribal Journey is to Heiltsuk, previously known as Bella Bella.