Muckleshoot Tribal members bless two canoes during a ceremony at Tukwila’s Duwamish Gardens last week. HEIDI SANDERS, Kent Reporter

Sacred canoes get tribal blessing

The Muckleshoot Indian Tribe recently blessed two canoes carved by its members in hopes of keeping the craft alive.

Tribal members, as well as Tukwila city officials and community members, gathered at the city’s Duwamish Gardens on July 6 for a canoe blessing ceremony.

Marvin Starr Sr., a member of the Muckleshoot Tribe, taught Tyson Simmons how to carve the shovel nose canoes.

“I was the last one on the reservation who knows how to make a canoe,” Starr said. “I really didn’t want to do it but they told me I was the last one, and we would lose all our knowledge, so I agreed to show them how to do it.”

Starr had only carved one canoe prior to the two he recently completed.

“The first one I worked on with my dad when he was about 90 years old,” he said.

Canoe carving is part of the tribe’s history.

“Most of the time there were only certain tribes that made them and other people traded for canoes,” Starr said.

Simmons, 29, is an experienced carver, but this was his first time creating a canoe – a process that took six months for the first canoe and 10 months for the second.

“I have been carving for a while,” Simmons said. “(Starr’s) son asked me if I wanted to help him and his dad carve the canoes and I said yeah.”

Simmons said he was honored to learn the craft and he looks forward to passing it on to future generations.

“It will be their duty to continue this with our younger people,” Virginia Cross, chair of the Muckleshoot Tribal Council, told the crowd before the ceremony. “Besides having the tradition of having (Starr) learn from his father, all of us should be learning from our ancestors and our elders.”

Following the ceremony, the canoes were launched in the Duwamish River. Attendees also shared a meal at the park.

Duwamish Gardens is one of Tukwila’s newest parks, having been dedicated on May 13. The park, 11269 East Marginal Way S., is a salmon habitat restoration site along the Duwamish River. Interpretive signs and art work tell the story of people who lived on and around the site, including Native Americans who made the river home.

“It’s really a nice opportunity to take advantage of this park for this ceremony,” Tukwila Mayor Allan Ekberg said during the canoe blessing.