Tribal water project honored

A project that used traditional American Indian canoes to test water quality in the Puget Sound region was honored by the U.S. Department of the Interior early this month.

Coast Salish tribes participate in a journey each year during which hundreds of tribal members pull hand-carved canoes up and down the Puget Sound region and meet at a celebration hosted by a different tribe each year. Last year, five of those canoes carried water quality testing kits. Water samples were taken at regular increments throughout the journey. The result was one of the most complete and accurate pictures of the health of the region’s water.

Motorized boats disrupt the water, and it takes too much time to send scientists out in canoes or rowboats to collect water samples, Eric Grossman said last year. Grossman is with the U.S. Geological Survey, the organization behind the project. When expert American Indian canoe pullers agreed to help, Grossman said, he knew the project would be a success.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar presented the project with the “Partners in Conservation” award at a ceremony during which 25 other projects were also honored. Salazar said at the ceremony that the Coast Salish project will help improve marine habitat.

“This is a most symbolic partnership because salmon are more than food to the Coast Salish,” he said. “The salmon is integral to their cultural identity.”

Results of the project can be viewed at

Krista J. Kapralos: 425-339-3422,

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