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Celebration, a 4-day festival honoring Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultures began yesterday (06-08-16). And while some of the festival goers arrived by plane or boat, several dozen pulled themselves to shore.

Since 2005, the One People Canoe Society has organized a group paddle from communities around Southeast, including Sitka, Angoon, Kake, and Yakutat. One of the boats was sponsored by the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium. Per tradition, CEO Charles Clement asked the local clan if they could come ashore.

“We are the SEARHC canoe from Sitka. It is an honor to be in the land of the Auke Kwan. We are representing people throughout Alaska: Athabascan, Aleut, Haida, Tsimshian, and Inupiaq, coming to pull on this canoe. We are honored to join you. Honored to be invited ashore. We carry a message of suicide and suicide prevention that has been with us throughout our journey. Thank you for having us here. We look forward to celebration and dance.

This year, there were eight canoes – from Ketchikan, Sitka, Kake, Angoon, Hoonah, and Yakutat, one designated for war veterans. Governor Bill Walker and Lieutenant Governor Byron Mallott joined for the final stretch to Douglas, along with two wooden canoes carved by Wayne Price. All told, 100+ people pulled to shore.

Slideshow: Canoe Trip 2016

Paul Martin was aboard a canoe owned by the One People Canoe Society, which left from Yakutat. He said, “Long ago, we used to listen to our elders. They used to say “try to do the way our elders did things.” But today, we are practicing that. We will sing like one nation. We will speak like one nation. And we will dance like one nation.”

To see more photos of the canoes and their accompanying safety boats, including the 65-foot Princeton Hall, check out KTOO’s slideshow.