A Northwest Journey by Canoe to Reconnect With the Old Ways

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PORT GAMBLE S’KLALLAM RESERVATION, Wash. — The canoe journeys are a new tradition for a very old people, but they already have one rigid rule that everyone knows not to break.

That thing you are paddling is called a canoe. Do not call it something else.

“If you call it a boat,” said Mariah Francis, 16, of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, “you’re either supposed to jump in the water or you’ll get thrown in.”

And as paddlers are reminded each year, the water here is cold.

For the 23rd summer in a row, a growing number of American Indians from tribes scattered across coastal regions of Washington State and British Columbia have climbed into traditionally designed cedar canoes and paddled as many as 40 miles a day, sometimes more, over two or three weeks, camping at a series of reservations until they converge at the home of a host tribe. There, several thousand people welcome them for a week of traditional dancing, singing and celebration....

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