Canoe Journey: July 28 – August 4, 2018

Learn more about the All Nations Canoe Family's upcoming canoe journey and the summer enrichment programs designed for tribal youth. 


Portland All Nations Canoe Family 

Portland All Nations Canoe Family. Photo Credit: Celeste Whitewolf
Portland All Nations Canoe Family. Photo Credit: Celeste Whitewolf.

This July, you will likely see barges, fishing boats, and windsurfers aplenty on the Columbia. If you are fortunate, you may also experience the sight of tribal canoes traveling traditional waters to strengthen their cultural ties to the river and one another.

The canoes represent a renewal of indigenous canoe culture, sparked by an annual event known as the Canoe Journey. The Canoe Journey is a celebration of canoe culture; tribes come together to sing and dance, share food and art, carve paddles, and dig out canoes. Each year, a different Pacific Northwest indigenous community hosts the inter-tribal Canoe Journey. The 2018 Canoe Journey, hosted by the Puyallup Indian Tribe, is expected to draw nearly 90 canoe families.

The Portland All Nations Canoe Family, Chinook Nation, Cowlitz Tribe, Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, and Kalispel Tribe of Indians will begin their journey to Puyallup on the mighty Nch’i-Wána (Columbia River) near the mouth of the John Day River. The pullers in their canoes—supported by canoe family members on shore—will travel downriver to the Pacific Ocean.

The Portland All Nations Canoe Family invited Columbia Riverkeeper to support the Canoe Journey as a partner in fundraising and water-quality education for the youth during the journey. We will paddle alongside for a portion of the Columbia River canoe journey—if we can keep up in our kayaks!

The Portland All Nations Canoe Family formed in 2013 in association with the Native American Youth and Family Center. The Portland All Nations Canoe Family is a multi-tribe canoe family connecting urban Native Americans to the canoe culture with a mission “to honor our ancestors, to inspire our youth, to document the history of the canoe journeys in the Pacific Northwest, and to contribute significantly to the lives of our urban Native American community by building on cultural strengths and assets.” The master weaver, carver, and canoe-maker John Edward Smith of Skokomish built the Portland All Nations 30-foot canoe, which is distinguished by a wolf figurehead on the canoe’s bow. Elder Frank Alby named the canoe “El Lobo.”

The Portland All Nations Canoe Family serves as a way to connect and strengthen indigenous culture despite centuries of efforts to extinguish it. Portland is home to the ninth-largest urban population of Native Americans in the nation. Federal policies played a significant role in the demographics of Portland’s urban native community, including the forced removal of Indians from tribal homelands, termination of tribal governments, and the relocation of Native Americans to urban areas.

Come July, I look forward to turning my eyes towards the Columbia, catching a glimpse of El Lobo passing over salmon and under basalt columns, and celebrating the cultural revival this journey represents.

Please join the Canoe Journey events and learn more online.

This feature was originally published in
River Currents 2018 Issue 2 Newsletter – Read it Now

The Climate Issue: Why Does Climate Change Matter to the Columbia?; How We Fight–and Win; Talking to Kids about Climate Change; and more.