The Power of Water is an exhibition that celebrates the return of the annual Tribal Canoe Journey along with the undeniable power that water has in Indigenous lives, both past and present, while recognizing the movement towards stewarding canoe traditions for future generations.
The annual Tribal Canoe Journey, first begun by Emmett Oliver of the Quinault Tribe in 1989 referred to at the time as The Paddle to Seattle, had reached its 30th anniversary in 2019. Over those three decades, year after year, cultural ceremonies and traditions that were previously suppressed were revived and embraced as one tribe after another along the Pacific Northwest Coast in Washington, Oregon, British Columbia, and Alaska began participating.
During the ‘20-’22 global pandemic the annual event was either completely canceled or occurred in a smaller, modified form. Now finally on the other side of the pandemic years, the glorious Canoe Journey will happen again and will be hosted by the Muckleshoot Tribe, where thousands of paddlers and visitors will be welcomed onto the shores of central Puget Sound.
The Power of Water honors the incredible dugout canoes, carefully designed paddles and the familiar beat of the drums that are returning to the precious water of the Salish Sea. The peoples of the PNW Coast have relied on water as a means of livelihood for thousands of years. The many rivers and inlets of the coast were major thoroughfares for travel and trade as well as allowing people to gather together and learn from each other’s knowledge. The water has also been a bountiful source of food and materials needed to survive day-to-day.
Water keeps us refreshed and rejuvenated. It supports all life and is, unfortunately, becoming scarce on our beautiful earth. Water will provide support and buoyancy to the many canoes traveling, in some cases, hundreds of miles to their final destination.