Tacoma City Council welcomed members of the Puyallup Tribal Council on Tuesday, July 17, to present a City Council resolution in support of the Power Paddle to Puyallup canoe journey happening in Tacoma from July 28 to Aug. 4. Puyallup Canoe Family Captain and Culture Director Connie McCloud and Puyallup tribal member/environmental activist Dakota Case were also present for the occasion.
In addition to making a $25,000 canoe journey donation from the City Council Contingency Fund, the Council will fly the Puyallup Nation flag at the Tacoma municipal complex throughout the duration of the canoe journey event, and afterward permanently display the flag in City Council chambers. This marks a major step forward in government-to-government relations between the city and the tribe, and is reflective of the healing medicine that is at the heart of this historic canoe journey themed “Honoring Our Medicine.”
“I was in tears last night,” Puyallup Tribal Councilmember Annette Bryan said the day after the meeting. “This event is significant in that the City of Tacoma agreed to fly the Puyallup Tribe of Indians flag in their council chambers as an acknowledgement that they are visitors on our land. The Puyallup Tribe is very grateful for the city’s contribution to the 2018 Power Paddle to Puyallup, and I am honored to play a part in this historic event on behalf of our members.”
More than 125 canoes will arrive in Tacoma on July 28, bringing upward of 15,000 people to the Puyallup tribal lands. Arrivals take place at the former Ole & Charlie’s Marina (4224 Marine View Dr., Tacoma, WA 98422) beginning at 11 a.m. As parking will be extremely limited, shuttles will be running from 2102 Alexander Ave. where the tribe’s riverboat casino is moored.
Throughout the week, visiting tribes from as far away as New Zealand and Alaska and from all across the country will showcase their songs, dances and cultural traditions at Chief Leschi Schools, and the public is warmly invited to take part. Everything is free of charge to the public, including daily breakfasts and dinners. For the full schedule, see pages 16-17 in this issue of the Tacoma Weekly News.
“Today we are excited to be at the point of final preparation,” McCloud said, as she addressed the Council. “We have seating for 5,000 people on the waterway. We are anticipating to feed many people our traditional foods, and we have worked all year to make sure the foods we share are healthy and also come from the traditions of our people of the Pacific Northwest.”
She said that there are many canoes on the water already, steadily making their way to Tacoma. “On Monday morning, the Chehalis tribe for the first time left their own home territory on the Chehalis River, paddled downriver to Aberdeen and out to the Pacific Coast and now they have joined the Quinaults,” she said, citing this one example of the thousands of travelers on their way to Puyallup territory.
Mayor Victoria Woodards said that the Council is honored to pass the resolution and bring the Puyallup Tribe in closer as a community partner, which has had its ups and downs over the years.
“This (canoe journey) is an opportunity to educate not only the youth who are part of the Puyallup Nation, but to also educate the entire Tacoma community about the sacrifices that have been made on behalf of our local tribe, about all the contributions that the Puyallup Tribe makes every day right here in the city of Tacoma, and to understand the struggles – what the canoe journey means to our entire city,” she said, making a special point to encourage Tacoma residents to come out and take part in the cultural festivities.
“I hope that as they (canoes) come into Tacoma and land on tribal property on Marine View Drive, that they will be welcomed by residents of the city of Tacoma. I invite us all to come out and be in support and partnership with the Puyallup Tribe for this very special occasion. I hope this is just the beginning of the partnerships and the friendships and the work that we will do together in the future.”
City Councilmember Justin Camarata agreed. “First, I’d like to acknowledge that we are on Puyallup tribal land. I know that’s important and frankly, the relationships between our various agencies and governments has not been what it should be. I’m hopeful that this is the start of more dialog and relationships and working together,” he said.
Deputy Mayor Anders Ibsen also acknowledged the “strained relations” in the past, and said the city must own that and see this year’s canoe journey as “the very beginning of starting the healing process. We can do better and we will do better. We have to recognize that as the city of Tacoma, we’re not simply your partner, we are your guests as we are on tribal land. I see this as the beginning of a renewal and rebirth of a potentially much better relationship as we move forward.”
Puyallup Tribal Councilmember Bryan echoed these thoughts when she spoke to the Council.
“It is really important that we continue to work together and learn about each other, that we continue to partner on common problems that we have in the city and the tribe.
“I do hope that these relationships we’re establishing will help us when we have to have conversations where we don’t agree on things. It’s an honor to stand here today and look forward to strengthening this relationship that we’ve started building.”
Puyallup Tribal Councilmember Tim Reynon noted how canoe journey medicine has the power to bring healing in ways that carry forth through generations.
“We are grateful to have this opportunity for you to participate with us in the year’s canoe journey, the theme of which is ‘Honoring Our Medicine,”’ he said. “We hope that as you and the citizens of Tacoma participate, and all of our tribal members participate, that you feel of the medicine that we have to share with you – that it can heal our communities and strengthen us and lift us up.”
Learn more about Power Paddle to Puyallup at PaddleToPuyallup.org.