By Joanna Bastian
Shortly before noon on Saturday (June 25), a long cedar dugout canoe floated down the Methow River to the confluence and then turned up the Columbia River. The team of six rowed the craft to shore to kick off the third annual Salmon Bake and Cultural Celebration fundraiser for the Community Resource Center for Pateros Brewster (CRCPB).
The CRCPB was created in the months after the Carlton Complex Fire, to serve the communities of Pateros and Brewster. With assistance from Room One, the Okanogan County Long Term Recovery Group and the Community Foundation of North Central Washington, the CRCPB was launched to provide much-needed resources including case management, client advocacy and behavioral/mental health services.
Grace Larsen, secretary of the CRCPB board, and Jim Larsen, vice-chair of the board, manned the CRCPB information booth at the celebration. The CRCPB was the recipient of all the money raised.
Other booths included a traditional basket weaving demonstration by Elaine and Tillie Timentwa, a native flute demonstration, native artwork displays, teepee construction, drumming, and archaeological speakers.
The DayBreak Canyon Bluegrass Band kept the toes stomping with their strumming and fiddling, while large salmon fillets sizzled on an open grill.
Ernie Brooks, Confederated Tribes language instructor, was on hand to share the Nxaʔamxčín language and teach people common phrases. Ernie has dedicated nearly 30 years of his life to preserving the Salish language. When he first started, there were eight elders who could speak it fluently. Today, there is only one still living. Ernie has worked to preserve the words: recording elders telling their stories, and writing down the translations.
Dan Nanamkin stood near the cedar dugout canoe to answer questions. He and his rowing team had negotiated the Methow River that morning to bring the canoe to the event. Just the week before, they rowed 105 miles upriver from Grand Coulee to Kettle Falls, completing a traditional route and trading along the way. On Sunday, the team took the traditional canoe across Lake Chelan, and next week they are rowing all the way to Canada. Next year, the team will attempt to complete a voyage all the way to the Pacific Ocean.
The cedar dugout canoe was made from an old growth cedar provided to the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation by the Quinalt Nation. The massive tree was delivered to the Nespelem Community Center, where over the course of a year community members learned how to create a traditional vessel. Designs of coyote tracks and salmon were burned into the sides, telling the story of the coyote who brought the salmon back to the people. The dugout canoe was christened “Xwil wi,” meaning “journey.”
Xwil wi will serve as an educational tool, as the team rows to different communities raising awareness of the importance of the cleanliness of our waterways, the health of the salmon, and cultural traditions of the Pacific Northwest native people.
If you would like to know more about the Pateros Brewster Community Resource Center, and either contribute or become a sustaining member, visit crcpb.org.