Greg Archuleta: Crossing the River like “ Crossing the Street to Your Relative’s Place”

Greg Archuleta talks about both the history of tribal canoe culture and the current importance of it.

Bio: Greg Archuleta is Clackamas Chinook, Santiam Kalapuya, and Shasta, and a member of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. As an artist and educator, he teaches about the culture and history of the Tribes of Western Oregon, including ethnobotany, carving, cedar hat-making, Native art design, and basketry.

Transcript: For our tribes here along the Columbia River the canoe is pretty much the primary way of travel, you know. So there were always canoes along the river here and we always considered going from–today there’s the boundary between Oregon and Washington, to us it was crossing the street to your relative’s place. But the canoes were very important along here and when Lewis and Clark came through–they call it Hayden Island now–but he called it Image Canoe Island because of all the carved, figural, canoes that showed up there when they got there.

But then today the canoes are still important to the tribes. Our tribe has a couple of canoes and we’ve carved some traditional style canoes through using the whole logs and stuff like that. Both the Up River canoes which are a little different than the Big River Canoes and ones that can go in the ocean. And then the tribe participates in what’s known as the Canoe Journey which is held almost every year. This year it’s going to be in Nisqually Country. And our tribes usually what we’ll do is we’ll paddle down the Willamette River–we’ll start somewhere upriver from the Willamette–and we’ll paddle down the Willamette and then paddle down the Columbia River and then depending on where the Journey location is then they might portage somewhere closer. This year it’ll be in Puget Sound so our canoe will up in Puget Sound area with, usually there’s about over 100 canoes a part of that.

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