For prominent Shoalwater Bay tribal elder Patricia Bumgarner Sanchez, welcoming the canoe families ashore means everything. Born in Tahola in 1932, she remembers being a child on the very beach where the pullers land, having completed their journeys, some from as far as New Zealand and Hawaii. As a child, Patricia and her siblings went hunting, clam-digging, fishing, and most exciting of all, they pulled canoes.
Now, Patsy camps on the beach every year and listens to the sound of the babbling brook, and the ocean waves washing against the shore. She finds peace to know that the old ways are returning, and witnessing the revival of canoe culture encourages her.
Patsy notes that Canoe Journey is integral to building relationships between tribes, to “associate more with their people, so that we can all come together.” To Patsy, the title Honoring our Warriors is fitting, and she honors the canoe families who have journeyed by her welcoming presence and prayers. “My prayers go out to all of them,” she says, adding that she prayed for the pullers first thing this morning.
To honor the warriors, Patsy explains, “you have to know not to be drinking and drugging; you have to be clean.” Canoe Journey, then, is a powerful motivator for youth on the reservation to keep off of alcohol and drugs. By reviving canoe culture, promoting inter-Tribal relations, and opening up the water highway to the past, we work toward a strong future. And warriors are being initiated out on the waters with each paddle stroke, becoming one with the ancestors and creating a powerful legacy for those who will come after.
by Misty Ellingburg