THE LURE OF THE CANAL


I felt that I had arrived at home the first time I saw the Hood Canal, a natural waterway about a mile and a half wide with the proper amount of trees and water. The ancient trees grow down to the shoreline, and large rocks make a fine place for sun bathing or simply watching the gulls in their ever present search for food. It beckons one to pick up a fishing rod or a snorkel.

Often in the night the swish of killer whales rushing downstream reminds you that you are not alone in your love of the water. Sometimes at night when the moon is just right, the water becomes phosphorescent, and you aren’t quite sure what lies beneath.

The Hood Canal is the home of our friend and mentor Emmett Oliver, who passed away recently at the age of 102. In 1989 Emmett realized his hope that the tribal canoe culture could be renewed, as part of the centennial celebration for the State of Washington. It was called the Paddle to Seattle. Since then the number of tribes taking part in the Journey has increased each year. This year’s Paddle to Puyallup is well under way with many members of the same families plying the waters their ancestors visited. At the end of their destination there is a huge powwow featuring a salmon bake and many vendors offering native food such as a frybread hamburger.

The Oliver family is well represented, with Emmett’s grandchildren pulling. Son Marvin Oliver, professor of Art at the University of Washington, designs many of the canoes. His youngest son, 12 year old Sam, was a puller for the first time this year. Emmett’s daughter Marylin who has been a puller each year, took her new grandson along this year. To watch these colorful canoes moving through the water is to see the past through their eyes. The Willapa Spirit, with some of the Oliver clan aboard sailed slowly down the Canal past Emmett’s home, with paddles raised in salute to a great gentleman who had a great idea which came to fruition.

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