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Rolling the Islands of the Salish Sea



Photo essay: Rolling the Islands of the Salish Sea: Swinomish


Pt. Townsend to SWINOMISH (70km, 43mi) This area was the rich hunting & fishing grounds of the Skagit / Swinomish People.
Points of interest: Olympic rain shadow, a variety of coastlines, Deception Pass, Swinomish Maiden story pole, Swinomish Native Sovereign Nation; Health Center, Senior Center, Day Care, Smokehouse, Environment protection programs, cultural programs, planning department. .

  Summer soccer camp, Ft Casey
Summer soccer camp, Ft Casey
After a ferry trip from Port Townsend to Whidbey Is, shortly after disembarking you reach Fort Casey. Ft. Casey was established in the late 1890's, part of the first line of a fortification system called the triangle of death (with Ft Flagler and Ft Warden), designed to prevent a hostile fleet -- originally the British -- from reaching such targets as the Bremerton Naval Yard and the cities of Seattle, Tacoma and Everett. Construction began in 1897 and continued in one form or another until the fort was closed in 1953.  The guns were never fired in anger.  It is now a conference center and in the summer the parade field is used for more stylized combat like youth soccer camp.
  Bicycling along Ebey's Prairie
Bicycling along Ebey's Prairie
Tranquil bicycling along Ebey's Prairie doesn't hint at the grisly story associated with the location.  The moniker commemorates Col. Isaac Ebey, one of the early pioneers on Whidbey Is. “A man of culture and education.” However, rather than his personal contributions to the territory's development, he is most remembered for his tragic death. On the night of 11 Aug., 1857, Haida people, from British Columbia, seeking face-saving revenge for an earlier defeat and the killing of one of their chiefs in the Battle of Pt Gamble by the cannons of the USS Massachusetts, raided Whidbey Is. They pre-selected Ebey as their victim. They awakened him at his farmhouse, shot and decapitated him, and fled back to the Queen Charlotte Islands with his head. Several years later the grisly trophy was recovered by the Hudson's Bay Co. and returned for burial with his body.
  Coupeville, Washington Salmon Wheel (public art), Coupeville, WashingtonIn the late 19th and early 20th century many sea captain were drawn to the sheltered, placid waters of Penn Cove, on the eastside of Whidbey Is., and settled in Coupeville -- the inference being they were tired of stormy sea?  Now-a-days it is mostly tourists that are drawn to its retro streetscape of art studios, crafts boutiques, public art and unique eateries.
  Bicycling along Penn Cove Bicycling along Penn CoveBicycling along Penn CovePenn Cove is now know for its delectable mussels and scenic bicycling.  Traditionally, it was a prime shellfish gathering ground for the Swinomish, Samish, Skagit and other local Native Americans people.  It has the largest and oldest shellfish farm in the country.  It is also a great place to spot bald eagles and osprey, in the right season. 
  Deception Pass Bridge, Whidbey Is
Deception Pass Bridge
Deception Pass Bridge, Whidbey IsThe Deception Pass Bridge was originally envisioned by Capt George Morse in 1850.  After more than eighty years of procrastination, the very impressive bridge was built in one year by the Works Progress Administration, opening in July 1935.  The surrounding state park of the same name was initially developed with the manpower of the depression era Civilian Conservation Corps.  The name Deception Pass comes from Captain Vancouver's realization that what he had mistaken for a peninsula was actually an island.
  A small detail around the bridge is the difference between the old guardrails (left, built by the CCC) and new guardrails (right) along the highway.  The old guard rails are made with logs laid between stone and cement footings.  The roadside face is irregular.  The newer guard rails are mounted out from the stone and cement piers so that there is a smooth rub-rail.
  Maiden of the Sea The Samish "Maiden of the Sea" represents the legend of Princess Ko Kwal Al Woot who married the son of the Great Spirit of the Sea.  The legend recalls how, after initially opposing the marriage, the Samish Chief, reversed himself, allowing his beautify daughter to live in the sea, so that the Samish people would have an abundance of seafood into eternity.
  Sovereign Nation of the Swinomish People The Sovereign Nation of the Swinomish People, since 1855 and before.  At many levels it is only a charade to be a sovereign nation in the midst of a super power, but on our visit we learn how the Swinomish people push to assert their sovereignty against both the state and federal governments and to some extent against Christian society, and their efforts to reclaim their culture, identity and dignity.
  Swinomish member Ray Williams speaking
Swinomish member Ray Williams speaking
We have been fortunate that Swinomish members have generously presented informative, challenging and thought provoking briefings on the revitalization of the Salish culture, social services programs (health, education, legal, and seniors citizens) on the reservation, the message of central totem pole, the symbolism of the carved posts in the longhouse, the struggle between and the combining of traditional beliefs and Catholicism and many other topics.
  Swinomish Longhouse
Swinomish Long House
The Longhouse is the cultural and spiritual center of the Salish people.  Historically (before contact with the Europeans), the native people could fairly easily gather and prepare the foodCarved doors in the Swinomish Longhouse (salmon, roots, berries, wild meat, etc.) they needed for the winter seasons, during the summer.  There was not much to gather during the winter so it became the time to spend in the long house developing and passing on the cultural and spiritual knowledge.  This was also the time of year that people would go to other communities to visit and they would welcome visitors into their own community and longhouse.  Providing generous hospitality was and is an import value of the Swinomish people.  On the posts by the door that visitors would use, are the eagle and salmon, both symbols for travel, to welcome the visitors.  The carving on each pole of the longhouse teaches something about the culture or history.

Carved door in the
Swinomish Longhouse

  Carved pole in the Swinomish Longhouse Carved pole in the Swinomish Longhouse   Carved pole in the Swinomish Longhouse Carved pole in the Swinomish Longhouse




Carved poles in the Swinomish Longhouse

  The Senior Center offers activities and daily lunch for elder members of the community.  Visitors are welcome so we have joined them on occasion and heard about their retirement, travel plans and part-time home-based businesses.
  Swinomish cemetery mementoes left at the graves in Swinomish cemeterySwinomish cemetery.  It is more interesting than most because of the variety and extensiveness of the mementoes left at the graves, and design of some of the grave monuments.
  Swinomish, Shaker Church
Old Shaker Church (1929), Swinomish WA [a new church was dedicated in 2011]
In 1881, Squaxin member (south Puget Sound) and logger, John Slocum died, and then came back to life at his own wake.  Helluva party!  On awakening, Slocum said he’d received instructions from heaven to renounce gambling, smoking and drinking.  The following year, after deviating from this righteous path, he fell ill again; his wife got the shakes while praying for him, and he recovered.  With this the seed of a new church was planted -- Shaker Church.

The church incorporates elements of indigenous, catholic, and protestant religious practices (but not New England Shaker), and it’s early popularity naturally pissed off the tribes’ Euro-descended neighbors.  Which, of course meant a ban and possible imprisonment of practitioners, new regulations, etc.  Including this notice from the U.S. Indian Service:

It has been reported…that there are some women who are violating the Rules…and that they shake at all hours of the day and night. You will therefore tell the women quietly to stop shaking at any other times than the times specified in the rules…[Y]ou will lock them up until they agree to stop.

  2011, the Swinomish hosted the annual Salish Sea Canoe Journey

2011, the Swinomish hosted the annual Salish Sea Canoe Journey

2011, the Swinomish hosted the annual Salish Sea Canoe Journey 2011, the Swinomish hosted the annual Salish Sea Canoe Journey 2011, the Swinomish hosted the annual Salish Sea Canoe Journey

In August of 2011, the Swinomish hosted the annual Salish Sea Canoe Journey.  Every year canoe teams from First Nations Peoples, from northern British Columbia, the Washington Coast, southern Puget Sound, and points in between, paddle to that years gather place for a week of camaraderie and culture.  It can take distant groups several weeks of paddling to reach the celebration.

  La Connor, Skagit Valley La Connor, Skagit ValleyLa Conner started as a Swinomish trading post, just off one of the deltas of the Skagit River. In 1867, renamed by John S Conner for his wife Louis Anne Conner. In its current incarnation it has a lot of upscale galleries, boutiques, gift shops, canal-side restaurant and antique stores.
  La Conner, Skagit Valley, farm house La Conner, Skagit Valley, farm worker housing
Farmhouse and barn (upper) and farm worker housing (lower)


La Conner is on the edge of the large, agriculture Skagit Valley.  It is amusing, and perhaps to get people more connected with and appreciative of the sources of their food, the Skagit Preserve Farmland organization has labeled many fields around the valley with the crops they are growing.  Here is a sample:

La Conner, Skagit Valley, wheat field La Conner, Skagit Valley, cow food La Conner, Skagit Valley, potato field La Conner, Skagit Valley, beet seed field Mt Vernon, Skagit Valley, Christmas tree farm

  An alternative way to get from Seattle to the Skagit Valley, or from the Skagit Valley to Seattle, is to take the Amtrak Cascade.  The Skagit Valley station is in Mount Vernon.  The trains have baggage cars that will take a limited number of bicycles unboxed.  The train also stops in Stanwood, in the Stillaguamish Valley, next valley south.  The next stop to the north is Bellingham.  Each can be advantageous, depending upon the composition of your tour.
  barn in the Stillaguamish Valley dairy farm in the Stillaguamish Valleydairy farm in the Stillaguamish ValleyIf you choose to bicycle back to Seattle, there is one more nice agricultural valley, the Stillaguamish Valley,  before for you meet nearly one-hundred miles of urban and suburban sprawl the stretches from north of Everett (Smokey Point), through Seattle, to south of Tacoma (Steilacoom).  The Stillaguamish Valley is a lovely bicycle ride, but similar esthetic routes south from it are few and far between.

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