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War canoe racers compete on Tulalip Bay


Christopher Andersson

Local Maleia Kicking Woman racing in the girls, 7-years-old and younger, bracket at the Tulalip Tribes third annual war canoe races on May 6.

The Tulalip Tribes held their third annual war canoe races on May 6 and 7 this year.

Numerous racers of all ages, and from single rowing to teams of many people, competed in the races throughout the two days.

The races were brought back to the Tulalip Bay two years ago, which revived some of the races the area used to hold decades ago.

"These races aren't new," said Tulalip Tribal member and organizer of the races Natasha Fryberg.

"We were looking to bring that bit of history back to our reservation," she said.

Many of the Tulalip Tribal members are familiar with how to do canoe races, even the Tribes were not holding officials races.

"A lot of us have had these war canoes around," she said.

The war canoes were designed to be fast from the historical needs of actual war between tribes.

"We used to get raided from the northern people," said Rick Edwards, a member of the Lummi Native American Tribe. "They used to come down and take all of our women and children."

Because of that history, faster canoes had to be built.

"When we got tired of them coming and doing that we built sleeker canoes. And we would hide them and they would come and take our people we would pull those canoes out of the woods and catch up to them and get our people back," said Edwards.

As other influences quelled that history, war canoes lost their place and became more of a tool for competition.

"When the government outlawed slavery we had no more use for them so we started racing with them," said Edwards.

Christopher Andersson

Racer Troy Sulkanum racing in the boys, 7-years-old and younger, bracket at the Tulalip Tribes third annual war canoe races on May 6.

Edwards has been taking part in war canoe races for many years and remembers when the Tulalip Bay held races more than 30 years ago, usually during Labor Day weekend, he said.

He has returned to the Bay since they've brought back those races for the last three years.

Fryberg said that the war canoe races have brought a lot of people to attend and race in their first three years.

"It's been pretty successful so far," she said.

"People have come from all around to take part in it, as far north as Vancouver Island," and many have come from mainland Canada as well, she said.

Fryberg added that the races have provided a positive atmosphere for local kids as well, and provided them a healthy opportunity and activity in which they can participate.


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