In the summer of 1934, I obtained a seat in the eleven-man Lummi racing canoe, the Lone Eagle. At that time seats were hard to come by and rarely given up, so I was honored to replace a man who had been killed in a logging accident. I assumed his position second from the stern, which placed me directly in front of the skipper. Little did I know that that position would make me the object of particularly clear and dedicated attention. I can still hear the skipper, Bunny Washington, yelling, "Come on Emmett - PULL!"

I loved the Eagle so much that, when I began with the team, I painted an eagle on her bow and repainted her name in larger letters. That canoe meant a great deal to me.

Emmett Oliver, Quinault
In the summer of 1934, I obtained a seat in the eleven-man Lummi racing canoe, the Lone Eagle. At that time seats were hard to come by and rarely given up, so I was honored to replace a man who had been killed in a logging accident. I assumed his position second from the stern, which placed me directly in front of the skipper. Little did I know that that position would make me the object of particularly clear and dedicated attention. I can still hear the skipper, Bunny Washington, yelling, "Come on Emmett - PULL!"

I loved the Eagle so much that, when I began with the team, I painted an eagle on her bow and repainted her name in larger letters. That canoe meant a great deal to me.

Emmett Oliver, Quinault

© 2009, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

To get into a canoe, you have to be a proper person, a clean person in both body and mind. … Don’t be swearing around that canoe, don’t be saying bad things. You’re going to hurt that canoe’s spirit and it won’t go for you. … I tell people you can be the strongest team on the water, but you have to have everything going for you-mind, body and spirit. One of the main teachings of our people is to be a good person.

Stan Greene
Chilliwack BC.
To get into a canoe, you have to be a proper person, a clean person in both body and mind. … Don’t be swearing around that canoe, don’t be saying bad things. You’re going to hurt that canoe’s spirit and it won’t go for you. … I tell people you can be the strongest team on the water, but you have to have everything going for you-mind, body and spirit. One of the main teachings of our people is to be a good person.

Stan Greene
Chilliwack BC.

© 2009, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Beginning of the Race

Taking positions at the beginning of the race at the gorge in Victoria. From top to bottom the canoes are called: No. 8, "?", Mt. Prevost, and Chemainus Bay. Photograph taken in 1947.

Wilson Duff Fund
Museum of Anthropology Archives

© Wilson Duff Fund, Museum of Anthropology Archives, 1947.


Racers train hard and long for the races, which are often grueling five kilometre courses. However, as the canoe glides smoothly and swiftly through the water their efforts are rewarded.

It’s a great thing you can feel when everybody is one. … The timing is down, the sliding is down and it’s peaceful. All you hear is those paddles going into the water. It becomes part of you.

Stan Greene
Chilliwack BC.
Racers train hard and long for the races, which are often grueling five kilometre courses. However, as the canoe glides smoothly and swiftly through the water their efforts are rewarded.

It’s a great thing you can feel when everybody is one. … The timing is down, the sliding is down and it’s peaceful. All you hear is those paddles going into the water. It becomes part of you.

Stan Greene
Chilliwack BC.

© 2009, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Race

At the height of the race in the gorge, Victoria, B.C. ca.1940s.

Wilson Duff Fund
Museum of Anthropology Archives

© Wilson Duff Fund, Museum of Anthropology Archives, 1947.


A canoe’s name is very important. Some are clan crest names, which are passed down from canoe to canoe over time. Some carvers commemorated the number of canoes they had made calling their canoe: No. 5, 6, etc. At other times the canoe was named for the community it represented. Then there was the mysteriously named the "?". Other canoes were named after animals or birds such as the Bluebird. Still others, for the characteristics of the canoe itself: for example, Dancing canoe or Lazy canoe. A winning canoe’s name was passed on from canoe to canoe, imparting the new canoe with the power and winning ways of its ancestor.
A canoe’s name is very important. Some are clan crest names, which are passed down from canoe to canoe over time. Some carvers commemorated the number of canoes they had made calling their canoe: No. 5, 6, etc. At other times the canoe was named for the community it represented. Then there was the mysteriously named the "?". Other canoes were named after animals or birds such as the Bluebird. Still others, for the characteristics of the canoe itself: for example, Dancing canoe or Lazy canoe. A winning canoe’s name was passed on from canoe to canoe, imparting the new canoe with the power and winning ways of its ancestor.

© 2009, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Explain the significance of a canoe’s name
  • Describe what it is like to race in a Salish canoe
  • Appreciate the spiritual significance of canoe racing for Salish coast people

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