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A Tribal Tradition Incorporates EMI Training

In the Pacific Northwest, an annual celebration in 2012 presented the Nisqually Tribe in Washington with an opportunity to utilize the Tribal Curriculum training they completed this year.

“Canoe Journey is tribal journey - a time to gather as northwest coastal natives, to share songs and dancing with each other,” says Hweqwidi Hanford McCloud, cultural specialist for the Nisqually.

“Canoe Journey was brought back to help tribes with youth suicide, and drugs and alcohol. Canoe Journey is a cultural and traditional place to come and participate and be sober and hang with sober people”

Tribes that host the journey ask that all participants be screened for alcohol or drugs and if they test positive, they are not allowed to participate.

“Tribal Canoe Journey is a way to connect with other coastal tribes and villages, to interact with each other, and the youth are exposed to a more positive environment,” says McCloud.

During the canoe journey, the canoes travel a route that brings them to every tribe’s reservation that is along the way to the tribe that is hosting. This gives tribes along the route the opportunity to host the canoes traveling though so that the paddlers can stop, rest and eat. Each leg of the trip is separated by 15 to 30 nautical miles - about 5 to 8 hours depending on the tides. The paddlers spend the night and get up early and do it again until they reach the final host tribal community.

“The tribe planned for a year and we had a canoe committee that did a lot of planning and preparations. Ken Choke, Emergency Management Director, Jeff Choke, Council liaison, Mary Leitka and myself as cultural specialists, are a big part and help with the planning and participation.

We, the emergency management team, take pride in assisting the community in all the events that happen on the Nisqually reservation. The Canoe Journey is one of the big events every year. The emergency management team has a lot of experience as cultural instructors to boat operators in the area. The traditional values are a big part of our everyday life that we (emergency management team) like to share with the community. The emergency management team also gives thanks to the training of the E580, E581, and E582, which has helped us as a team, be able to utilize the training of these courses to put our cultural and traditional values to use. The training from EMI and FEMA has open doors for us (Nisqually Tribe) to be even more prepared. This training is a positive step for tribes and they will benefit from doing the training and also incorporating the culture into their emergency management system, like the Nisqually Tribe has done.”

Campsites at the Nisqually reservation during the 2012 Canoe JourneyPaddlers in the annual Canoe Journey departing from Nisqually reservation

Above left, campsites at the Nisqually reservation during the 2012 Canoe Journey. Above right, paddlers in the annual Canoe Journey departing from Nisqually reservation.

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