The Snohomish Tribe return to their homeland on a canoe trip through Puget Sound. Thursday they stopped at Langley on Whidbey Island.
LANGLEY, Wash. — Mike Evans stood on the shore of Puget Sound Thursday to greet the return of natives to the southern end of Whidbey Island, where the Snohomish people have lived for thousands of years.
“Many members of Snohomish still live on the island, but no one knows who they are and they are not well identified,” Evans said.
Evans is the president of the Snohomish Tribe of Indians, who were driven from their lands hundreds of years ago, leaving his people to search for their true identity.
Now Evans is here to find him.
“That culture was alive and is alive,” he said. “He’s not completely dead, although he’s been dormant for a while. He needs to be awakened.”
Evans is part of a canoe trip through Puget Sound aimed at awakening the Snohomish people.
Nearly 20 years ago, he and his father sculpted the Blue Heron canoe used on the voyage.
It represents the identity of the Snohomish people.
“It’s reconnecting with the old ways, reconnecting with the language, a connection with the culture,” says Evans.
One of the stops on the trip took place on Thursday in the town of Langley on Whidbey Island, which has its own account with its past.
The city recently removed two imitation totem poles carved by white men with no connection to the Snohomish or any other Indigenous culture.
RELATED: Totem Poles Expose the Problem of Cultural Appropriation on Whidbey’s Island
Mayor Scott Chaplin said his city is working to undo the damage caused by centuries of racism.
“We want Langley to be a community that speaks to everyone, to all cultures, to all ethnic groups, to all nationalities, but most importantly to First Peoples and descendants of First Peoples.”
Among those waiting to greet the paddlers were Becky and Robyn Porter, Snohomish sisters working to revive their culture.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment my whole life,” Becky said. “It’s so powerful.”
“We want people to know, we’re not trying to take anything from anyone,” Robyn added. “We’re just trying to get people to understand that we’re still here.”
The voyage continues for two more weeks, touching the San Juan Islands and ending at the Lummi Reservation in Whatcom County.
As they continue their journey of identity, recognition and respect, Evans pledges to bring their culture home.
“We haven’t disappeared,” he said. “The natives are still there.”