Members of WUUC spent an amazing weekend supporting this annual indigenous event sponsored by the Lummi Nation. We were part of the kitchen crew prepping and serving meals for participants in the Lummi longhouse. It was inspiring to form new relationships, deepen existing friendships, and participate in ceremonial gatherings. I personally returned home touched with a new sense of calm that has remained with me still.

The following article by Carrie Bowman published in the East Shore UC newsletter is republished here with her encouragement and permission (additional photos added by WUUC). You can contribute to support and sustain this event going forward here:

Gathering of the Eagles – Canoe Journey through Ancestral Waters

Written by Carrie Bowman

This year’s Gathering of the Eagles Canoe Journey, organized and hosted by Sul ka dub Phreddie Lane of the Lummi Nation, celebrated ancestral wisdom and cultural knowledge and nurtured the paddlers’ physical and spiritual well-being.

Members of the East Shore Indigenous Connections Team were honored to provide transportation support, ground team support, equipment, and lodging for the 4th annual Gathering of the Eagles.  Members of University UC, Northlake UUC, and Woodinville UUC provided equipment, lodging, and hosted presentations in the Seattle area following the Gathering. 

Canoes launched at Anacortes on May 19, landed at Spencer Spit State Park on Lopez Island that day, and spent May 20 and 21 on San Juan Island.  The Orcas Island community hosted us on May 22 and 23.  At each island, well over 100 people greeted the canoes at the beach, where ceremony and wreaths welcomed the canoe families (see the video linked below).  Oh, the island communities know how to throw a potluck!  Each night, the canoe families and support team were offered homemade food; the canoe families responded with protocol that included gratitude, prayer, singing, dancing, and storytelling.  Lummi elders and guests from Hawaii, the Puyallup Tribe, Northwest Indian College, South Africa (Khoisan), Australia (Māori), Diné (Navajo) Nation and Hopi Nation offered songs and prayers. 

The canoes landed at Lummi Nation on May 24, where East Shore, Northlake, and Woodinville UUs showed up to prep and cook meals May 24-26.

For the first time at a Gathering of the Eagles event, canoes landed at the ancestral fishing site where Whatcom Creek enters Bellingham Bay (now called Waypoint Park).  On May 25, Lummi Nation and Bellingham officials welcomed the canoes and volunteers carried two of them to Maritime Heritage Park, where food, native crafts, and fellowship followed.

While the above logistical report gives a sense of the journey, the spiritual nature of the experience is more difficult to describe.  The Gathering of the Eagles Canoe Journey focuses on slowing down and listening to our ancestors so that we can learn from them about how to respect our earth, sky, and waters: 

  • “Leave your ego at home”  (Sul ka dub Phreddie Lane, Lummi)
  • “This feels like the right thing to do, even if it doesn’t make any sense”  (Litha Booi, South Africa, about a decision guided by indigenous wisdom)
  • “Seven days of paddling from homeland island to homeland island of Lummi ancestral grounds was like waking in a living dream…we felt the heartbeat of the Salish Sea”  (Whaia Whaea, Australia)

The journey overflowed with acknowledgment and appreciation for the contributions of all.  The spirit of the northwest potlatch permeated the Gathering:  traditionally, indigenous wealth wasn’t determined by how much a person possessed, but by how much they gave away.  All guests returned home with gifts.

Our participation in Gathering of the Eagles brought to mind words about “good work” from Rev Karen Van Fossan’s sermon on May 12: 
…..prepping food, chopping wood, sorting donations, mediating conflicts, facilitating ceremonies, or otherwise, this work affirmed our dignity and our belonging; in affirming our shared humanity, this work created a context in which we were less likely to resort to interpersonal violence ourselves – most of our deepest needs were met, including the need to give of ourselves with  generosity and purpose…..

Here is a video that captures the spirit of the Gathering of the Eagles (thanks to Matt Wickey, a friend of guests from the Hawaiian Outrigger Canoe Voyaging Society).  Turn up the volume and enjoy a bit of the journey!