Religious Studies and Theology, Vol 30, No 2 (2011)

“Our Ancestors Paddle With Us”: Chumash and Makah Indian “Canoe Culture”

Dennis Kelley
Issued Date: 4 May 2012


The Aboriginal populations of the western coasts of Canada and the US have been engaged in the current revitalization of traditional maritime cultures for over twenty years. The canoe societies of tribes ranging from southern California (Tongva and Chumash) to the Coastal Tlingit in British Columbia utilize their traditional canoes as exemplars of both indigeneity and their individual tribal values. Engaging in paddling events as embodied religious practice and spiritual teaching tools for young people, canoe societies challenge their communities to choose healthy physical lifestyles and interpersonal behavior, and to claim a presence in contemporary US and Canadian society. This article engages these issues, using the maritime revitalization processes of the Chumash Indians of California’s central coast and the Makah Nation of Neah Bay, Washington to argue for the significance of cultural performance in the development and maintenance of a functioning Native religious identity in the assertion of modern contemporary Indian authenticity.

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DOI: 10.1558/rsth.v30i2.189


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