The Chehalis Indian Tribe has embarked on an excursion its people haven’t taken in more than 150 years; a trip from its tribal land along the Black River near Oakville to Puyallup in a canoe.
“The last documented trip of this kind was in 1859,” said captain Shannon Comenout, a member of the Quinault Nation who is married to a Chehalis tribal member. “It’s an important journey, it’s living history, knowing it hasn’t been done in more than a century.”
The canoe, manned by Comenout and 10 “pullers,” or rowers, began the trip on reservation land at Percy Landing on the Black River south of Oakville on Wednesday. and then along the Chehalis River, making stops in Satsop that day and in Montesano and Aberdeen Thursday.
The group camped out Thursday night on the east side of the Wishkah River Bridge across from the Q-Mart before setting out Friday morning for Armstrong Bay in Ocean Shores.
From there, the tribe will visit Taholah and “hit village sites” along the way, said Comenout. The journey is scheduled to take 19 days before it reaches Puyallup, winding north along the coast into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, south into Puget Sound and eventually ending on Puyallup tribal property on the Puyallup River. The Chehalis Tribe’s itinerary indicates they expect to be in Puyallup around July 28.
“It’s a journey for healing,” said Comenout. “Not only for our canoe community, but for those across the territory. We are bringing medicine to other communities that may need the same type of healing we do.”
Follow the historic journey on Facebook/ChehalisRiverPaddle or paddletopuyallup.org.