American Indians of Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park has so much to offer with its majestic landscapes, abundant wildlife and natural resources. In fact, these exact factors are what attracted early inhabitants to this region and have created a rich cultural history throughout the area. The National Park Service and Delaware North Companies have both recognized that these cultural and historical resources must be protected just as the natural resources of the Park are.
These historical cultures and traditions continue to live in and around Olympic National Park as there are eight native tribes recognized as culturally significant by the National Park Service. These tribes are the Lower Elwha Klallam, Jamestown S'Klallam, Port Gamble S'Klallam, Skokomish, Quinault, Hoh, Quileute, and Makah. Traditions, beliefs, mythologies, and practices are directly related to the Olympic Peninsula yet are unique to each tribe.
An important revival of traditions is the annual Tribal Canoe Journeys, a celebrated event for Native American tribes and First Nations from the Pacific Northwest of their shared traditional method of transportation and a significant cultural experience for all participants. There are a sequence of canoe journeys stopping at various indigenous communities along the coast taken up by canoe families, nations, and groups who travel in ocean-going canoes, either authentic replicas of traditional canoes, made out of solid cedar logs or various replicas using more modern techniques and materials. At each stop there is a welcome ceremony, singing and dancing and usually a potlatch dinner. With each stop, more and more tribes join the Journey. Each year, a different nation is selected as the host with all the canoe journeys meeting up for a multiple day festival. Many indigenous nations coming from coastal communities of Alaska, British Columbia, Washington and Oregon participate each year. In recent years canoes from as far away as Hawaii and New Zealand have participated as well. Depending on distance, the trip can take up to a month. In 2013, the Quinault Nation was selected as host with the Journey ending in the town of Taholah, approximately 40 miles south of Kalaloch. More than 100 canoes participated supported by two 18th and early 19th century tall ships (The Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chief ). This afforded Kalaloch the rare opportunity to witness almost all the canoes paddling offshore, see the tall ships, and actively support the event.
Tribal traditions dating back for thousands of years are continued today as they are passed down from generation to generation. For example, the First Salmon ceremony is carried out by coastal tribes to honor and give thanks to salmon returning from the sea. The tribes of Olympic National Park are also preserving native languages, customs and traditional arts, like basket weaving, beading, canoeing, fishing, whaling and carving. These cultural and historical resources are to be forever protected and preserved as a vital part of Olympic National Park.