WA Secretary of State Blogs

Paddle to Nisqually

faithHave you been following  the Paddle to Nisqually ? The Tribal Canoe Journeys  happen every summer on the waters of the Pacific Northwest? Each year a different tribe hosts the celebration which follows the final landing of all the canoes, many of which have traveled great distances.  This is a special year for the Nisqually Tribe as the journey ends with them.

Indigenous peoples have made this canoe journey up and down the coastal waterways for thousands of years, but by 1989 the tradition of long distance canoe travel had all but disappeared.  That year, as part of Washington’s centennial celebration, tribal leaders from around Puget Sound revived the practice, calling it “Paddle to Seattle”.  Some tribes carved their first canoe in nearly a century in order to participate in the journey (Oldham).  The journey became an annual event after the Heiltsuk Nation issued a challenge to the Puget Sound tribes and  Canoe Families to come up to Bella Bella in 1993.  This year close to 100 canoes and their pullers, from the Coast Salish peoples of Alaska, Canada and the Pacific Northwest are scheduled to arrive in the Olympia Area on July 30th.  Since 1994 the Nisqually Tribe has participated in the Canoe Journeys and have used the journeys to strengthen its culture, its community, and its families.  Allen Frazier, a Northern California Native and long time Nisqually community member, has photo-documented the event since it began.   In 2013 the Nisqually Tribal Library received a Washington Rural Heritage grant from the Washington State Library to digitize and make available a portion of these photographs.  The result is a rich and ever evolving set of pictures which documents the Nisqually Tribe’s participation in canoe journeys from 1995 forward.   The collection, known as “The Canoe Journeys – A Nisqually Perspective”  includes photos and maps of the routes taken each year.

Approximately 120 canoes representing over 50 tribes are due to land at the Port of Olympia on July 30th. The Nisqually Tribe has been preparing for the celebration for months.  The Landing Day events will be held at NorthPoint at the tip of the Port of Olympia’s peninsula.  The tribe is expecting as many as 18,000 people to attend (Port of Olympia).  The celebrations and protocols will continue until August 6th.    Even if you can’t attend the landing, thanks to the work of the Nisqually tribe you can virtually attend the event through the pictures they provide online.


Oldham, Kit. “Northwest Indian canoes return to site of Point Elliott Treaty on July 26, 2007.” Historylink.org. N.p., 26 Aug. Web. 26 July 2007.

Port of Olympia and City of Olympia team with Nisqually Indian Tribe for Canoe Journey Landing in July.” Port of Olympia. N.p., 10 May 2016. Web. 26 July 2016.


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