It is mind bendingly beautiful here in Port Angeles where the mountains greet the sea and rivers too. We owe a lot to the First Nation peoples of the Olympic Peninsula for protecting that beauty and shaping our lives with their art, food, stories, skills and languages.
The Lower Elwha Klallam nation pulled off one of the greatest love letters to the Peninsula of all time which was the largest dam removal in US history. The Elwha River restoration makes her one of the nation’s few natural free flowing rivers. My grandmother, an original homesteader to the Joyce area, spoke of the days when she could walk across the backs of the fish in the Lyre. I once believed she was pulling my leg, but I never dreamed I would see a day when salmon would end up on the endangered species list. The Elwha Nation is an example of natural resource stewardship that bears repeating. Opponents of the project stated we’ll never see the money again in our lifetime because the fish return will be too slow to justify the expense. Sorry! I am grateful the Elwha Elders have a broader view of time and values of what wealth is. They look ahead through the lens of geological time for the benefit of us all. Into a far-reaching future of abundance and one that is already evidencing itself in returning fish populations. It is a beautiful thing to see the delta alive with change as it grows and erodes with the seasons. I am grateful to the Elwha, for the guardianship of this precious water source and what it means for the healthy future of the Peninsula’s people, fish, and wildlife. It is a priceless gift to the earth that will pay dividends for generations!
The Jamestown S’Klallam have left their mark on our scenic wilderness by restoring Jimmy Come Lately Creek and the Lower Sequim Bay Estuary. They play a dynamic role in the protection of the Dungeness watershed fish and game. Stop at the Longhouse Deli grab a bite and walk along the waterfront Olympic Discovery Trail to admire the wildlife peaceful Sequim Bay has to offer, or you can mosey up to Northwest Native Expressions at the Tribal Art Center and enjoy a different sort of feast for the senses. During the winter, it’s not the holidays until the Jamestown S’Klallam Nation dresses up Sequim Bay with one of the prettiest Christmas light displays you’d have the pleasure of finding anywhere. 7 Cedars Casino offers a kaleidoscope of live entertainment as well as tempting food and wine menus. In Sequim, proper is an award winning golf course with more delightful restaurant options.
The road that twists and turns it’s way to the furthest Northern point in the continental US is to be respected, and so is the Makah Nation that inhabits this part of the world. When you get there prepare to nosh on some of the freshest salmon you’ve ever had, camp and hike. The Makah nation boasts some of the most scenic coastal countries there is. Lake Ozette should certainly be part of your itinerary. The nine-mile boardwalk triangle through the rain forest, along with the lake’s edge to the coast, are memory makers. The Makah Museum is an amazing study of how this incredible sea going culture survived and thrived. Makah Days from August 25-27th is a real treat. Not only are the canoe’s exquisite and the sea races exciting, but the food is also outrageously good, and the Makah people are a delight to celebrate with especially their tribal dance.
Continue down the coast, and you’re in the home of the Canoe people or the Quinault nation which is comprised of 5 tribes. The Quinault nation, unlike many other Native cultures, still hold their ancestral lands. Lake Quinault and the Hoh Rain Forest are some of the most ecologically diverse places on the planet! There are beautiful places to hunt, fish and camp along the tribe’s coastal waterways and beaches. Please check with the tribe about visitor’s permits, as well as hunting and fishing guides. This Nation was deeply affected by the Twilight phenomenon as it was their creation legend that was referenced and frankly bastardized. Do yourself a favor and ask them yourselves about the Sea Wolves. The truth is better than fiction. Quinault country is beyond breathtaking. The Hoh, Quileute, Chehalis, Cowlitz and Chinook tribes are all waiting to show you their world.
If you want to experience one of the coolest tribal scenes in the Pacific Northwest, then be here for Tribal Journeys being hosted by the We Wai Kai and We Wai Kum Nations on Vancouver Island, Canada. Tribal participants from Nations all over Alaska, Canada and the Pacific Northwest row on the open ocean in traditional canoes to this rendezvous every year. Each year a different nation hosts this remarkable event. It is a snapshot into seafaring tribal life alive and well in present-day cultures that keep language, art, and dance alive. It is also the perfect place to catch up with Peninsula nations I may have forgotten to mention.
From the bottom of this Northwest girl’s heart, thank you for the collective contributions of the First Nations peoples of the Olympic Peninsula who make our world more beautiful, colorful, joyful and secure. Please enjoy special savings at Sparket for the month of May with your tribal ID Cards.