Tribal canoeists will camp in Mukilteo

MUKILTEO – Canoes traveling to the Lummi Indian Reservation on an annual tribal journey will stop at Mukilteo for the first time since the event began 18 years ago.

Mukilteo Mayor Joe Marine invited the tribes to pull their canoes onto the beach at Lighthouse Park on July 26 and camp there overnight.

As many as 50 canoes are expected, Marine said.

The crowd could number 3,000 with people riding in the canoes and vans filled with supporting tribal members.

Up to 80 canoes will end the journey at the Lummi reservation on July 30, said Freddie Lane, director of Paddle to Lummi. They’ll come from as far north as Bella Coola, halfway up British Columbia’s coastline, and as far south as Oregon.

The canoes that land at Mukilteo will come from areas south.

“We know Mukilteo is a Native American camping ground, and we need to embrace that heritage and that culture,” Marine said. “Even though it’s not tribal land, this is ancestrally an important area.”

Mukilteo is an American Indian word that means “good camping ground,” Marine said.

Representatives of Washington State Ferries are helping the city plan the event, Marine said. The invitation to the tribes has nothing to do with a state plan to build a ferry terminal nearby, he said.

Leaders of local tribes have said the project will disturb a sacred site.

They believe their ancestors gathered there to trade and share news. Hundreds of tribal leaders met pioneers and U.S. officials there in 1855 to sign the Treaty of Point Elliott.

Tulalip tribal leaders believe Mukilteo was the site of a village inhabited year-round.

Crews found shells and charcoal discarded by humans at least 1,000 years ago during preliminary testing for the ferry project.

Tribal leaders believe the ground also contains fragments of a longhouse and human remains.

In a March letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Tulalip leaders said the site “is not (merely) an archaeological site and its value is not in scientific analysis. This is a living site of our ancestors, and it has immeasurable cultural and spiritual values.”

Washington State Ferries is currently drafting an environmental impact statement that could be released this summer, said Kerry Ruth, Washington State Ferries project manager for the proposed terminal.

Reporter Krista J. Kapralos: 425-339-3422 or kkapralos@heraldnet.com.

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