Tony Johnson: Our Kids Have Never Known a Time Without Canoes

Tony Johnson discusses the revitalization of canoe culture among the Chinook Nation and the importance of children being raised with that culture.

Bio: Tony Johnson is the tribal chairman of the Chinook Indian Nation, as well as the chair of the tribal cultural committee. He is also the Cultural Education Director for the Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe.


So you know, we are canoe people and we inherited sensibilities and traditions around that. Our people continue to be on the water every day, many of them today. But you know we’ve been able to participate in and revitalize our canoe culture in a way that is really exciting. Because while we were raised with that information it was not real in the same way it is for our kids. So my kids have never known a time when we didn’t have canoes in the community and weren’t using them naturally and traveling each and every year to our neighbors or great distances, whoever it is that’s hosting an event over the summer. You know we pick up by canoe and travel. Our neighboring community of Shoalwater Bay Indian reservation, if the canoes don’t naturally go across in the year for tribal journeys or some other event we make a point of putting the canoes in the water and traveling back and forth. Keeping that highway open, right. This traditional road that we had on the water between our two villages. That is something our kids have never not known and that really feels good, to know that.

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