Totem erected at the site of the celebration

We arrived at the Quinault Nation, the location of this year’s Tribal Journey celebration, expecting to spend a long day.   At one time a Coast Guard base had been located on this point, but no facilities remained.  Activates were held in a huge tent. Meals, for the estimated 15,000 attendees were served in a separate tent and cooking was done outside using portable kitchens.  Huge generator trucks provided electricity and water was also trucked in.  Portable showers, washing machines, and hundreds of portable toilets were also on site.

water and generator truck

These trucks provided water and power

A special wi-fi system had been created so it was easy to be “connected” with the outside world, and there was even a tent where electronic devices could be recharged.  A new road had been cut through and golf cart type vehicles moved people from the parking lots down to the site, which was on a cliff overlooking the beach where canoes had landed.  Views of the Pacific Ocean were stunning, even to those who have lived their lives in this area.  Most canoe “pullers” and their families and support people stayed in small camping tents. The planning and attention to detail were amazing.


Pullers, their families and support people stayed in tents

Dad volunteers

Ted and I both volunteered, he drove one of the carts

All participants were fed and fed well.  Watching the activities we could hardly go an hour without being offered water or a sandwich.  Meals featured traditional foods such as salmon, crab, venison, elk, and even buffalo.

Dining Tent

Dining Tent


Salmon cooked in the traditional way

In the “Protocol Tent”  each tribe had an opportunity to share its songs and dances as well as to talk about important recent events.     These presentations began early in the morning and lasted for five days, all night in one case and on Wednesday we stayed to watch until 4:30 am and they still weren’t finished.  The regalia is often  very elaborate, and many of the songs tell stories and use masks.

Young dancer

A young dancer


There are three bands of Klallams, Port Gamble, Jamestown, and Lower Elwha.  Our kids participate with the Lower Elwha and all together they made an impressive group.  They sang and danced for over 4 hours.

Lower Elwha Klallam sing

Lower Elwha Klallam kids sing and dance

Raven dance

Raven dances and sings

The theme of the event was “Honoring our Warriors” and all veterans were called to the floor and presented with specially made tee shirts.    Other gifts were given as well, including the beaded necklaces we had helped to make.

gifts for veterans

Gifts are prepared to honor veterans

“Potlatch” is an important part of the ritual.  Traditionally this was the giving of gifts by the host to all of the guests.   Status was established by the value of gifts given and received.  Most of the tribes shared gifts of small items, many of them made by tribal members, such as  dried fruit, necklaces, beaded pins, calendars, CDs of their music and so forth.   The practice of Potlatch was outlawed in 1884 by the federal government and that law was not repealed until 1951.

On the final day of the celebration the host tribe, the Quinaults, had the floor and interspersed with the performances of the dancers and singers, the giving of gifts took place.  Ten traditional style canoes had been specially built and were given away to families outside of the tribe.

potlatch canoes

Three of the ten canoes built to be given away at the Potlatch

One was received by the family of  the individual who organized the first “Tribal Journey” in 1989.   Each canoe was carried into tent to be presented.

gift canoe in tent

Canoes were carried into the tent, one at a time, and presented to the honored families

Tribal leaders were then called forward and each was wrapped in and given a specially made Pendleton blanket.  Veterans were given blankets and the giving of smaller gifts to each person in the tent went on for hours.


Some of the gifts given to our family

Seeing these traditional activates being  revived and practiced today, after being nearly wiped out, was a moving experience.   There is much to admire about what is happening.  The languages are being taught again, and crafts such as basket weaving, totem carving and canoe making have been revived.  It is also significant that this event, with thousands of people attending, is alcohol and drug free, and it spans the generations.

One of my favorite things about the culture is their respect for the elders and their wisdom.  Even as non-Natives Ted and I were always sent to the front of the line to get our food before the young folks.  Elders always board the bus first and the best seats in the tents are saved for them.

An Elder texting

An Elder texting

Next year the destination will be Bella Bella on Vancouver Island.  We are already talking about attending.


Seneca in her regalia


View from the back

raven in regalia for blog

And Raven with his regalia and drum