Special Spirit Power, War Spirit Power, Thunder Power and Chain Ligtning was unique to the Dungeness people. The S'Klallams would display this power in the manner that they entered a village for a potlatch or gathering.

From the Dance Plaza House Post Carvings - Dale Faulstich, Lead Carver and Designer.
Assistant Carvers: Nathan Gillis and  Ed Charles.  Volunteer carvers:  Harry Burlingone and Don Walsh.

S'Klallam Tribe

1033 Old Blyn Hwy
Sequim, WA 98382
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Jamestown Canoe Journey Blog 

Observations from Sherry Macgregor, 2009 Jamestown Puller

I am a Jamestown S'Klallam citizen of the Macgregor family. I trace my lineage through my mother, Betty Macgregor Bowen, my grandmother, Florence Reyes Macgregor and my greatgrandmother, Annie Jacobs Lambert Reyes. I lived among my S'Klallam great aunts and uncles and cousins in the Sequim and Blyn area until the age of 16 when my family moved to California. About twelve years ago my brother Joe Bowen (now deceased) built a home on Blue Mountain. I returned to the Olympic Peninsula many times after that for family reunions and general good times. This time I am here for the entire summer to participate in the canoe journey.

Episode 5 - August 4, 2009            

The Canoe Journey is completed.

On the 31st of July, the Jamestown S’Klallams welcomed over 30 canoes to Jamestown. Formal requests to land in our territory were made by each tribe and permission was granted by us. My cousin who witnessed one of the landings was very impressed with this courteous formality. He commented how nice it would be if everyone did this. It was a busy day as there was also a naming ceremony on the Jamestown beach for the new canoe, the E’ow-itsa or Little Sister. Those of us in the Laxaynәm took the canoe out to the tip of the Dungeness Spit so that we could direct the other tribes’ canoes to Jamestown. We were out there quite a while and some of us had the opportunity to take a tour of the old Dungeness Lighthouse, something I had never done before.

On the 1st of August at 5:30 a.m. we carried our two canoes out to the water and we then began our canoe journey. It was so foggy we had to follow our support boat which had a GPS system. We could hear singing from other canoes but we could not see them, nor could we see any land. We could tell when we were near Protection Island because of the preponderance of puffins and seals but we could not see the island either. One of the most dangerous points in our journey was at Point Wilson right before our destination, Port Townsend. Here the waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound meet and it is known for rip tides and under-tows. In the old days the Indians would portage around it when going to Port Townsend. We, however, “pulled” our way through the choppy waters and we landed in Port Townsend six hours after starting out from Jamestown. Upon rounding the point everything was finally wreathed in sunshine. Port Townsend is a city in S’Klallam territory and so the three S’Klallam tribes: Lower Elwha, Jamestown and Port Gamble were the hosts for this landing. Since it was in our territory we did not have to ask permission to land but we did announce ourselves. As many canoes came in after we did we could greet them singing the S’Klallam Welcome song – in S’Klallam of course.

On the 2nd of August we travelled from Port Townsend to Port Gamble. It was a lovely day filled with sunshine. This time we could clearly see whatever we passed, such as Indian Island, a nuclear submarine and the Hood Canal Bridge. It took seven hours to reach our destination and once there we were granted permission to land. 

On the 3rd of August we began the final day of our canoe journey. We had another 5:30 a.m. start with the weather being cooler. Again we hit very choppy water around Point No Point which is on the west side of the Sound. This was a particularly poignant sight for us as we are still bound today by the Point No Point Treaty of 1855. This was the moment when our lands and rights were taken from us and they tried to force us onto a reservation far from our ancestral homes. I realize it is an old story. It took at least 125 years (1981) before we were recognized as a tribe and could start forcing the U.S. Government to live up to the treaty provisions. My relatives always said, “meaningless words, broken promises.”

Finally we neared Suquamish. We had what was called a “soft landing” at Doe-Kag-wats Beach (Jefferson Head) before we crossed over to the final landing site. It had to be orchestrated, as 88 canoes converged here having come from many different directions. There was also the issue of their beach disappearing at high tide. But what an incredible sight to see all these canoes rafted together on the beach, each in turn requesting permission to land and come ashore. Many of the speakers in the canoe were quite eloquent. It was also a memorable sight to see the canoes being hoisted onto the shoulders of young men from the Navy base as they were carried up a very steep boat ramp to a grassy area. Extra people were needed to move the Laxaynәm as it is one of the heaviest canoes.

We remained in Suquamish for four days of protocol in the House of Awakened Culture. This long house style building was built on the exact same spot as their original long house. The Old Man House was destroyed in 1870 by a U.S. Indian Agent intent on discouraging traditional communal life . Protocol is the opportunity for each tribe that participates in the Canoe Journey to share their culture, which includes singing, drumming and dancing as well as to thank the hosts.

What have I learned from this experience? I now know that the Canoe Journey creates community and validates culture and that a lot of healing happens on the water. And I know that all of us are a lot stronger than we ever imagined ourselves to be.   

Episode 4 - July 25, 2009

There have been plenty of events and activities leading up to the final practice. The second canoe has been given a name and I have made my own canoe paddle to use on the canoe journey.

Many citizens of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe are directly descended from the House of Ste Tee Thlum. Ste Tee Thlum lived in the second half of the eighteenth century and was hereditary chief of the village located where the Dungeness River flows into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. He had a large family of seven sons and one daughter. The seventh son was named Laxaynәm and this is the name given to the tribe’s first canoe. Now the second canoe has been given the name of the only daughter, E’ow-itsa (or “Little Sister”). There will be a formal naming ceremony for her on the 31st of July at Jamestown. I am particularly pleased because my family is descended from E’ow-itsa, Little Sister of the Seven Brothers.

To make the canoe paddle I first went up to the Woodworking Shed to work with Jeff Monson.  Beginning with a large plank of yellow cedar, we used “traditional power tools” to cut a Coast Salish shaped paddle. The blade is leaf-shaped and pointed at the tip. The handle is carved from the same piece of wood with an added upper hand hold. The shape was devised in ancient times for stealth and defense. The paddle’s pointed end may have been designed for warfare but it was also handy to spear a fish. The tip of the blade is actually a fine-tuned innovation. It enters the water’s surface more easily than the blunt-tipped paddle. When silence is required, the very end of the tip can be left in the water on the return stroke so that even the slightest noise of drips splashing the surface is not made. After the power tools, I began the hand-work. I sanded and sanded. When the paddle was finished it was as smooth as silk and of course yellow cedar is very aromatic.

Because paddles are made with pride, my ancestors sometimes painted a decoration on the blade or colored them solid black. I intend to do both, paint a decoration on the blade and color the handle black.

I have been extremely fortunate in that Dale Faulstich, the Master Carver of the Jamestown S’Klallam totem poles, offered to create the designs for my paddle. The blade on my paddle has a Sea Bear (part bear and part killer whale) which I thought was an appropriate image on a sea-going paddle. On one side of the handle are designs from 18th century S’Klallam war clubs that symbolize strength and fierceness. On the other side of the handle is the zig-zag or lightning pattern which symbolizes visions and inspiration. It also refers to the “chain lightning power” that only the Dungeness S’Klallams possessed. This was a special war spirit power and to imitate it the S’Klallams entered potlatch celebrations dancing single-file in the zig-zag pattern. The dancers made four counterclockwise circuits of the central fire singing their power songs before being seated. Of course we will be singing our power songs on the canoe journey.

Sherry with her Sea-Bear paddle

It should be noted that native pullers treat their paddles with care and utmost respect. It is the paddle that allows a puller to reach her/his goals. The tip must never touch the ground but can rest on one’s foot. The tip is sacred as it is the point of connection between the puller and the water.

This Saturday was our final practice. Both canoes went out and we made a grand circuit around Sequim Bay. We received our final instructions. When the canoes from the other Tribes reach Jamestown on Friday the 31st of July, those of us in the Laxaynәm will go out to the tip of the Dungeness Spit to greet them and guide them in to Jamestown. Then Saturday morning, very early, the two Jamestown S’Klallam canoes will join the others for the canoe journey to Suquamish.

Episode 3 - June 27, 2009    

This Saturday was “cold water training”. For the first time EVERYONE going on the canoe journey was there. It was very clear that no one wanted this event hanging over her/his head any longer than necessary and going through “cold water training” is a requirement for the journey.

Before heading out into the bay one member of the team from the support boat went over all the effects of hypothermia… in great detail! However the water in the bay was around 55 degrees Fahrenheit that day so it would actually have taken over an hour in the water before hypothermia set in. From what I had heard of the cold water training done in previous years everyone was back in the canoe within ten minutes. I think this was a relief for those who admitted to being a bit scared.

My biggest concern ahead of time was what I would do with my car keys. Having them sink to the bottom of the bay would be a real dilemma. And apparently that is exactly what happened last year to a fellow who left his keys in his pocket. But after consulting with Marlin, the skipper, I learned of the various places I could leave the keys on land before setting out in the canoe. My other concern was what to wear. I had heard that cotton was the worst choice of clothing because of how water adheres to it. I could clearly envision myself sinking to the bottom of Sequim Bay in slow motion like Holly Hunter in the film The Piano only my sinking would not be nearly as lyrical as hers was.  So I opted for my swim suit with lightweight clothes of a different fabric over it.

The crews for each of the canoes for the journey have been assigned and I will be on the Laxaynәm. This is the dugout canoe made from a 500 year old red cedar tree. It is heavier than the other canoe but I have really enjoyed the two times I have been a puller in it. I feel like I am having the opportunity to experience one aspect of the lifestyle of my ancestors.

Well, finally we paddled out into the bay and first practiced tying up to the support boat and then getting out of the canoe and into the boat. There is a cabin and a motor on the support boat – what a difference! Then the dreaded moment arrived.

We got back in the canoes and made our way a distance from shore. We rocked the canoe and over we went into the water. It all happened very quickly. Then everyone started swimming toward the canoe. The three in first baled out most of the water. Of course, what I envisioned as being the biggest hurdle was – that of getting back into the canoe. But when each person’s turn came there were plenty of people to push, pull or yank and we were all back in the canoe within the allotted ten minutes. I doubt if anyone, including myself, wants to go through the “cold water training” again but it did feel like a real accomplishment and we were quite merry afterwards.

Episode 2 - May 30, 2009  

The tribal canoe was brought from the Jamestown Canoe Shed for launching at the John Wayne Marina. It struck me as blatant irony that the man who had donated the land for the marina which we S’Klallams are using was the same man who spent much of his professional life shooting and killing Indians. However he greatly liked this area and gave a very valuable piece of property to the people who live here for the marina.

This Saturday there were nine of us including our drummer/singer who turned up for canoe practice. The canoe was put in the water and after a prayer for our safe return we boarded the canoe and headed off into Sequim Bay. It was exhilarating. It was a beautiful warm day with little wind and calm water. ‘A great beginning,’ I thought.

My first realization was how incredibly important the beating of the drum and the singing is. It synchronizes the pulling and is uplifting as well. We were instructed to pull in coordination with the person in front of us and so needless to say the two people in the bow of the canoe are especially important. Half way through the practice we switched sides of the canoe. I thought one side might be easier than the other but what I discovered was both sides were equally demanding.

We kept up a good pace which included bouts of “power paddling” and went across the bay to practice “beaching”. While on the beach we looked up and there high in a cedar tree was a bald eagle. Many native people believe that the eagle is the spirit of a deceased person who may appear to protect and look out for those still on earth. I thought that was a very comforting idea, plus it keeps alive the strong connection you had with the person after they have died.

Well, it was a great afternoon in the canoe and on the bay and everyone including the skipper felt we had done exceptionally well. What I discovered was the great pleasure of being on and near the water. The ancestors would have been very pleased with us.

I will conclude with the information that after almost three hours pulling in the canoe I expected discomfort, sore muscles and perhaps outright pain the next day. However I had nary an ache or pain for my efforts. I take that as a sign I should continue with this venture.

Photo by J. King


Episode 1 - May 16, 2009

I traveled from my home in California to spend the summer with my sister in Sequim so that I could go to the Jamestown canoe practices and then on the canoe journey this summer to Suquamish. On Saturday morning I drove from the town of Sequim along a highway cut through a thickly wooded forest to the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribal Center in Blyn for the first meeting of the Jamestown Canoe Family. Initially we met at the Canoe Shed where the two tribal canoes are housed. One canoe is made from a 500 year old cedar tree and the other canoe is made from lightweight cedar strips and fiberglass.  The first is much heavier weighing 1500 pounds and is very sturdy. The second is lighter weight, about 600 pounds, and is wider and more buoyant. The original canoe is called the Laxaynәm (pronounced La-cane-um) and the second is yet to be named. As the first canoe has a male name the second canoe will have a female name, yet to be decided. 

There were about 14 people at the meeting although 23 have signed up. The journey is open to anyone who of course must come to the training sessions. Next week we begin the canoe training in the bay. The most challenging session will be what is called the “cold water training.” I think everyone can guess what that means. It occurs later in the summer so as not to terrify the participants I suspect. My impression is that the canoe journey will function in many ways: it tests one’s physical and mental strength, it connects one to the ancestors (who are always watching), it creates a sense of family, it reactivates old traditions while creating new ones, it will change one, plus much more.

The meeting included information, ritual, eating, singing and drumming. First the rules were laid out and then a smudging ceremony took place. Smoking cedar from last year’s wreath from the nose of the Laxaynəm with sage and an eagle feather were used to waft smoke over one’s head, around one’s heart and then the rest of the body. This is for purification. It was a beautiful sunny day so after lunch we went down by the bay to begin learning S’Klallam songs. They have two parts: messages and chants. An example would be The Klallam Welcome Song:

Man k*u ?ay’ ?a? či nstáči
(It’s a very good day today!)

šá?šut ?a? či nstáči
(I’m glad that you arrived!)

Hi hi hay ----- ya ho ho whoa ----- hi hi hay, whoa ho ho

The Olympic Peninsula is a magnificent spot on our continent. From the Sequim prairie one can seen the snow covered Olympic Mountains emerging behind the dark green evergreen forests. In the opposite direction is the coastline with sandy beaches filled with driftwood and treasures left by the sea. Gulls cry, the waves lap on the shore, the wind whispers in the trees and for a single second all seems right in the world.

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