• The Nokedjak from Squaxin Island in Stz’uminus waters on the 2017 Tribal Canoe Journey.

    The Nokedjak from Squaxin Island in Stz’uminus waters on the 2017 Tribal Canoe Journey. (Photo: Julian Brave NoiseCat)

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Every summer since 1993, members of Indigenous communities across the Pacific Northwest, from Oregon to Haida Gwaii, B.C., have departed their home waters in oceangoing canoes and converged on a host First Nation for a week of dancing, storytelling and feasting with far-flung relatives and friends. 

For Julian Brave NoiseCat, a writer and member of the Canim Lake Band Tsq’escen in British Columbia, this annual Tribal Canoe Journey, in which he has participated twice, is both political and personal. On a broad scale, the journey is "a collective odyssey to reclaim tradition and territory," but it's also an opportunity for NoiseCat to reconnect with his father, a survivor of the intergenerational trauma of residential schools who is coming to embrace his Indigenous identity. 

In Canadian Geographic's November/December issue, NoiseCat shares the story of the 2017 Tribal Canoe Journey in words and photos. 

The canoe, he writes, is central to the resurgence of the Indigenous Peoples of the Pacific Northwest: "It brings communities together to paddle ancestral waterways. It challenges elders and youth to revive old songs and dances and compose new ones. In an age of digital relationships, it brings families together to celebrate and work through troubles. It reintroduces people to water in an elemental way, reminding us that water sustains life."

Check out more of NoiseCat's photos below, and pick up the issue on newsstands November 20th to read the full story. 

The Squaxin Island canoe family on the Tribal Canoe Journey.

The Squaxin Island Canoe Family on the Tribal Canoe Journey. For the past two years, NoiseCat and his father have joined the Squaxin Island Canoe Family on this remarkable voyage.  

Canoes representing First Nations from Vancouver Island and tribes from the United States arrive in Plumper Bay, Esquimalt and Songhees traditional territory.

Canoes representing First Nations from Vancouver Island and tribes from the United States arrive in Plumper Bay, Esquimalt and Songhees traditional territory. 

Children play on the beach below Point Grenville on the Quinault reservation.

Children play on the beach below Point Grenville on the Quinault reservation. 

The Quinault crew sings a spirited paddle song as they arrive on Stz’uminus shores.

The Quinault crew arrives on Stz’uminus shores. 

Emma Frank and K’omoks dancers welcome canoe families into their territories with song and dance.

Emma Frank and K’omoks dancers welcome canoe families into their territories with song and dance.

Wei Wai Kum council member Curis Wilson, left, and artist Jonathan Henderson, right, both dressed in thunderbird headdresses, led their community’s welcoming delegation in Campbell River, the final port-of- call on the Tribal Canoe Journey.

Wei Wai Kum council member Curis Wilson, left, and artist Jonathan Henderson, right, both dressed in thunderbird headdresses, led their community’s welcoming delegation in Campbell River, the final port-of-call on the Tribal Canoe Journey. 

A Lekwitok drum group sings visitors into Wei Wai Kum shores in Campbell River, B.C. on August 5. Master carver George Hunt Jr. stands among them at right.

A Lekwitok drum group sings visitors onto Wei Wai Kum shores in Campbell River, B.C. on August 5. Master carver George Hunt Jr. stands among them at right.

Related: How a B.C. First Nation is working to save their language from extinction