With a quick push off the Gyro Park boat launch, members of the Upper Columbia United Tribes (UCUT) were off on the next leg of their journey south on the Columbia River.
After drum circle and traditional prayers on the beach, nine paddlers, from teenagers to elders, set off in a canoe hand carved from cedar. The river was swift on Wednesday morning, physical strength was needed to paddle the rapids toward Black Sand Beach in Northport. But the meaning of journey, which began on the Arrow Lakes Tuesday and ends in Kettle Falls, U.S.A., on Friday, runs deeper than merely being an athletic feat, says Shelley Boyd from the Inchelium Language and Culture Association.
“The focus is praying for this river and the salmon,” said Boyd. “And everything that touches it, everything that feeds from it, and everything that comes from the life that is this very powerful and beautiful water.”
After camping the night at Gyro Park, Boyd says she awoke thinking about the amount of work it takes to power the grand canoe she was soon to board.
“But the real focus and reason that anybody is here, it isn’t for the athleticism,” she shared. “They are here for spiritual purposes.”
(Shelley Boyd, Sheri Regnier photo)