Tribal Canoe Journey to Bella Bella

Qatuwas 2014: Paddle to Bella Bella

This July I had the pleasure of joining the Learn and Serve Environmental Anthropology Field School (LEAF School) as a guest instructor on a service learning program. We joined the Blue Heron Canoe Family on their canoe expedition from the Puget Sound in northern Washington all the way to Bella Bella on the central coast of British Columbia. The LEAF School is a program of Edmonds Community College run by Dr. Thomas Murphy. I joined the journey about midway up the eastern coast of Vancouver Island.

Each year, indigenous nations from up and down the Northwest Coast of the United States and Canada, as well as first nations with canoeing traditions from the interior of the region and beyond (this year's journey included several Maori people from New Zealand as well as a number of Hawaiians!) travel by canoe, often from their traditional territories to a common destination. Begun in 1989, this is a powerful celebration of the canoeing tradition. This years destination was the Heiltsuk Nation, whose primary village is the town of Bella Bella (Waglisla in Heiltsuk).









_10B9737_10B9798_10B9834_10B2010_10B1954A canoe is more than a simple boat

Canoes are treated with a great deal of respect as they function not just as a vehicle to move people but as a vessel of culture. The journey is an opportunity for each tribe to celebrate and rejuvenate its unique cultural relationship to the land, sea, and human neighbors.

_10B0623_10B0691_10B0311_10B0280_10B0258Cultural uses of plants and animals

Besides participating in canoeing and cultural activities, students in the class learned about traditional uses of plants and animals along the route.

 Dr. Murphy explains the identity of a crab found in the intertidal zone close to Fort Rupert, British Columbia.


An amazing journey through a landscape rich in natural and cultural beauty

With years of exploring the Pacific Northwest, I can honestly say this journey was one of the most amazing opportunities I have had to deepen my appreciation and understanding of the people and landscapes of the Pacific Northwest, an opportunity I feel very grateful for.


David Moskowitz

David Moskowitz, Winthrop, WA, 98862