Every summer since 1993, members of Indigenous communities across the Pacific Northwest, from Oregon to Haida Gwaii, B.C., have departed their home waters in oceangoing canoes and converged on a host First Nation for a week of dancing, storytelling and feasting with far-flung relatives and friends.
For Julian Brave NoiseCat, a writer and member of the Canim Lake Band Tsq’escen in British Columbia, this annual Tribal Canoe Journey, in which he has participated twice, is both political and personal. On a broad scale, the journey is "a collective odyssey to reclaim tradition and territory," but it's also an opportunity for NoiseCat to reconnect with his father, a survivor of the intergenerational trauma of residential schools who is coming to embrace his Indigenous identity.
In Canadian Geographic's November/December issue, NoiseCat shares the story of the 2017 Tribal Canoe Journey in words and photos.
The canoe, he writes, is central to the resurgence of the Indigenous Peoples of the Pacific Northwest: "It brings communities together to paddle ancestral waterways. It challenges elders and youth to revive old songs and dances and compose new ones. In an age of digital relationships, it brings families together to celebrate and work through troubles. It reintroduces people to water in an elemental way, reminding us that water sustains life."
Check out more of NoiseCat's photos below, and pick up the issue on newsstands November 20th to read the full story.