Journey of the Spirit

In its inaugural paddle, the UW Shell House Canoe Family joined the annual Tribal Canoe Journey, where tribal and First Nations communities reconnect and celebrate their shared heritage.

In this documentary, witness the spiritual and physical journey of the University of Washington’s first canoe family aboard the Willapa Spirit. It’s a story of reclaiming old traditions and starting new ones, and of reconnecting to a heritage that will always be an essential part of the Pacific Northwest.

Participants aboard the UW Family Canoe.

Building a family through tribal canoe journey

On a hillside in Suquamish, Washington, Nicole Kuhn and her two teenage sons watched brightly colored canoes make their way toward the beach below on a sunny July afternoon.

Kuhn was searching for a canoe with a colorful red and green salmon painted on its exterior. When she spotted the canoe, she teared up. Among the paddlers — called pullers — were her two older children, Ethan and Naomi, participating in their first Tribal Canoe Journey.

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Originally published November 2023

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