A Journey with our Ancestors: Coast Salish Canoes

A Journey with our Ancestors: Coast Salish Canoes


The Hibulb Cultural Center and Natural History Preserve in Tulalip, WA recently opened a new exhibit touting the importance of the canoe culture to their people.

Brandi N. Montreuil with Tulalip News went to the soft opening of the exhibit and was able to speak with some of the people that helped create the exhibit.

“We hope guests learn the importance of canoes and how they were tied to all aspects of our life,” explains Mary Jane Topash the center’s tour specialist, about what guests can expect from the new exhibit. “We hope to educate people on the types of canoes, anatomy, tools, what it takes to build one, and how they are still used to this day. This exhibit will encompass all aspects of the teachings, history, lifestyle, and how their importance hasn’t changed a whole lot over the years.”

Photo by Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News
Photo by Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

The exhibit also highlights the resurrection of the canoe journey and the 1989 Paddle to Seattle. According to Wikipedia, in 1989, Washington state and local tribal governments signed the Centennial Accord recognizing tribal sovereignty. In celebration, coastal tribes organized the Paddle to Seattle to help revive their canoe culture. Fifteen tribes participated the first year.

“It was a big learning process for us. It didn’t just happen in 1989,” explained Tulalip carver Joe Gobin, about the preparation involved in the Paddle to Seattle. “Frank Brown and Ray Fryberg Sr. got our [Tulalip] Board involved and the Board saw how this was something missing in our culture. They sent us to different reservations to learn, to Lummi and Makah, because none of us knew how to carve a canoe. We all talked about it and the tools we needed, and how when we were making the canoe we were bringing the tree back to life. And it did come back to life on the reservations, and it brought back so many things in our culture that were forgotten. I am glad to see this exhibit here.”

Photo by Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News
Photo by Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

For more information please visit the HibulbCulturalCenter.org website.

About Toyacoyah Brown

Toyacoyah Brown is an enrolled member of the Comanche Nation, currently living in Chicago. She received her B.A. in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma and an M.A. in Media Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. When she's not scouring the Internet for fun things to share with PowWows.com readers you can find her digging for vinyl in her local record store or curling up with a good book.

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