July 13, 2010

And they're off!

This post is a part of a series about a year-long cultural exchange the Burke Museum is leading between the Ainu Association of Hokkaido and six tribal groups in Washington: The Duwamish Tribe, The Makah Nation, The Suquamish Tribe, The Squaxin Island Tribe, The Tulalip Tribes, and The House of Welcome Long House at Evergreen State College. In 2008 the Ainu were formally recognized by Japan’s government as the nation’s “first peoples.”

After many months of anticipation, the week-long Tribal Canoe Journey to Makah began this morning from Suquamish. Several members of the Ainu community will be paddling in canoes with the Tulalip Tribes and will head north from Suquamish through the Puget Sound and Strait of Juan de Fuca on their way to Neah Bay, stopping at designated camp sites along the way to eat and sleep. Upon arrival at Neah Bay on June 19, the Ainu will be the first group to present their heritage to the other groups, as they will have traveled the farthest to participate in the Canoe Journey.

Participation in a big event such as this requires training, so Ainu interns Akira Kikuchi and Masashi Kawakami spent the last several weeks attending paddle practices with the Tulalip. Watch this short video below to get a sense of what the paddling is like:

Yesterday, I joined some coworkers in a trip out to Suquamish to facilitate media coverage of the Ainu’s participation in the canoe launch. What started as a gray rainy morning turned into a beautiful sunny afternoon, and we watched with excitement as about a dozen canoes from around the Puget Sound approached the shore at Suquamish.

Tatsuya Kawakami, Miki Yamashita, and Kiyomi Ichinoseki, arrived in Seattle a few days ago to join Masashi and Akira on this Ainu cultural exchange:

The visiting Ainu men and women helped carry the boats to shore:

Northwest Indian News came to conduct interviews for a story about the Ainu that will air later this summer:

After camping at Suquamish last night, the canoes launched this morning to begin their trip to Neah Bay. Good luck to all who are involved in this journey!

Posted by: Julia Swan, Communications