Join Us in Celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Muckleshoot Tribe Canoe Journey, Sunday, July 31, 2023 Alki Beach in West Seattle.

Since Indigenous People’s Day was made a King County holiday last year, 4Culture staff have been seeking out intentional ways to learn more about the Native American tribes that make their home in and around King County. This year, staff members attended events that brought people together in celebration. This is part of our ongoing effort to deepen our relationship with Indigenous communities in King County in ways where we are invited to participate.

We started out this year’s activities attending the Seattle Rep production of Between Two Knees by the 1491s, an intertribal comedy team, and got together to discuss the stellar performance and its impact on us. The Seattle Rep did a great job of providing additional resources for audience members to learn more and experience different Indigenous artists’ perspectives.

The weekend of July 21, a number of staff attended the 2023 Seafair Powwow at Daybreak Star. This annual powwow is a wonderful way to experience a Native party! Seeing so many styles of regalia and traditional clothing is stunning, as is the athleticism of the dancing. Everyone is represented in the dance circle, from Tiny Tots to the matriarchs, and guests can join in during the intertribal songs. This year was very special as we were honored to visit with previous 4Culture staff Denise Emerson, whose artwork was on the official powwow merch! To prepare for our staff meet-up, we shared a few resources like Daybreak Star’s Pow Wow FAQs,  Powwow 101 from the NAYA Family Center and Pow Wow Series: Part One, The History & Reclaiming Our Right To Dance by the Indigenous Goddess Gang. This longform article gives a comprehensive timeline of the history of powwows in the US and Canada, through a personal lens. All of us who attended this year’s Seafair Powwow were lifted up by the experience, and inspired by the powerful communities who welcomed us.

Late in July 2023, more than 60 canoes representing tribes from Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia set out on Canoe Journey 2023. Their final destination was Muckleshoot, where the Muckleshoot Tribe planned to welcome them. Along the way, the teams of pullers (not paddlers) stopped in other Native communities, like Lummi, Swinomish, Suquamish, where they were welcomed in celebration of the journey.

On the morning of Sunday, July 31, canoes began to land on Alki Beach in West Seattle. One by one, each canoe approached the shore and requested permission to land from the Muckleshoot tribe, whose representative welcomed each nation. Pulling teams, usually reflecting several generations, worked together to pull their heavy wooden crafts out of the water and onto the beach. Several 4Culture staff went to Alki beach to join the crowd that witnessed the canoes welcomed to shore.

After all of the canoes landed, the pullers and other celebrants left Alki for the Muckleshoot Community Center, where protocol was held from August 1 through August 6. During protocol, representatives from each tribe in attendance share songs, dances, and stories. The order of tribes during protocol is determined by the distance that they traveled, with the hosting tribe going last.

Canoe Journey is a celebration of Native culture and ties that exist among communities who have plied the Pacific Northwest waters since time immemorial. The contemporary Canoe Journey tradition began in 1989, when it was called the “Paddle to Seattle.” Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s celebration was the first since 2019, when the Lummi Nation hosted.

To wrap up our report, here are some resources about local indigenous history and practice, as well as info on Daybreak Star’s Indigenous Peoples’ Day Celebration on October 9:

Indigenous Peoples’ Day 2023 at Daybreak Star

United Indians of All Tribes Foundation

Visit Seattle Support for Seattle’s Indigenous Community

Indigenous Peoples’ Day at the Burke Museum

Native Americans of Puget Sound – A Brief History of the First People and Their Cultures

First Peoples of the Pacific Northwest – Research Guide at Evergreen State College

Pacific Northwest History and Cultures – Native Knowledge 360

Edward S. Curtis Digital Collection at the Seattle Public Library

Indigenous Tribes of Seattle and Washington – American Library Association