Celebration canoe paddlers take first journey since pandemic


June 9, 2022

Kyle Clayton

Twenty-five seafarers from Haines and Haines Junction paddled dugout canoes to Juneau during a four-day journey to Celebration. This was the first time the annual tradition was held since the start of the pandemic.

Tlingit master carver Wayne Price was one of 25 seafarers who departed Haines in dugout canoes on Thursday, June 3 on their journey to "Celebration" in Juneau-a gathering of Native peoples to celebrate and perpetuate their culture and traditions.

Last week's journey marked the first Celebration since the pandemic and its 40th anniversary. The canoe pullers endured rain, fog, high winds and 3-foot seas during their four-day trip to the site of the Auke Kwaan village near Juneau where Natives from around the region gathered.

"We clocked in at 7 knots in the wide-open ocean," Price said. "The dugout did fantastic, not a drop of water in the boat. We had three support boats and we all worked together, teamed up together and went through a lot of trials and tribulations together."

"It was a very good journey," said Ted Hart who completed his fourth trip this week. "It felt really good to travel our traditional waterways like our ancestors did."

Kyle Clayton photo.

Residents gathered at Portage Cove to bless the canoe pullers before their journey.

First Nation peoples from the Yukon and British Columbia also traveled to Haines to take part in Celebration. Some paddled and some took part in blessing the ocean goers before their departure. They prayed and sang songs honoring their ancestors, relatives, the paddlers and the sea before departing. More than 50 residents and visitors gathered at Portage Cove to view the ceremony.

Dugout canoes filled with Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian peoples from Ketchikan, Kake, Angoon and Haines met at the Auke Recreation Area beach.

"The beach was completely full of people and their canoes came from all directions. We all met together. There was singing and dancing. It was very, very, heart-warming," Price said. "You have to be there. Words aren't good enough to describe how good it felt."


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