Saturday, July 5, 2008

Honoring the First Peoples

Canoe Journey Day, honoring the first peoples of this land and these waters, transformed Boulevard Park into a celebration ground for the sharing of stories, dance, culture and spirit blessings as families in tribal canoes from as far away as Alaska to the north and Oregon to the south pulled their way through the waters and came ashore.There was music, story telling, speakers, Native art vendors and concessions. It felt a special honor to have been invited to share in this wonderful celebration of our communities. Information was shared explaining some of the detailed costume regalia and how each dancer is responsible for making their own costume.
The Unangax dance troupe, their peoples having been in existence for more than 7,000 years and more familiarly known as Aleut, Sngagim Axasniikangin (Dream Dancers), believing they obtain perfect harmony and balance through canoe pulling, performed their Sea Gull Dance. Later, teaching the audience their Halibut Dance, they invited us to join them for one more round of the dance.
The crowd waited in anticipation for the canoes to arrive.
Canoe families pulling their way to our shore.
Onlookers watched as the canoe families arrived.
Raising their paddles as a sign of peace, the canoe families requested permission to come ashore where blessings and cultures were shared.
Their canoes beached at Boulevard Park where the canoe pullers ate and rested after their long journey.
Last year marked the first official acknowledgement of the "First Inhabitants of the Land and these Waters" by our government. Governor Gregoire declared the day "Canoe Journey Day" in celebration of an historic, healing and joyful gathering of our communities.
Photos from the celebrations throughout the day.

Gene Tagaban, a noted Tlingit storyteller, teacher, dancer and actor of Cherokee, Tlingit and Filipino ancestry, shared with us the story of his life-long dream to be the Raven Dancer. Delighting us, he performed his Raven Dance not once, not twice, but three times!

The following video found on U-Tube presents an interview with Gene Tagaban about his work on a project with the Seattle Children's Theater.

Quoted from one of the other story tellers, "Look, white man, this is our way!"


Later, a special treat of salmon chowder from Boundary Bay most appropriately completed our day. As we waited for our table, a double rainbow appeared over the Herald Building in downtown Bellingham just as a colorful sunset was casting its magical glow on the building.


1 comment:

  1. Dear Rose,

    Friends from Honor Day sent me your blog address and I was so delighted to see your pictures and description of Canoe Journey Day. You so captured the day, the spirit and the gorgeous finale sunset and rainbow.

    I was chair of that event for the past two years and it is so wonderful to hear how the event landed with you and I am sure others who came.

    I was also the one who helped bring the Lummi participation to Lilly Point. We must have been on the same bus, I was the one passing out posters of Canoe Journey Day, maybe that is where you learned about it.

    I've forwarded your comments and web address to people who worked with me on this event.

    If you'd like I will add you to my email list and send occassional notices of native events to which the public is invited. My commitment is to help build bridges between our communities.

    Thank you, thank you for your beautiful capturing of what Canoe Journey Day and Lilly Point was all about!

    I'd love to meet you sometime. We share a love of photography and life I think.

    Beth Brownfield


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