The agreement is a first between the museum and the Samish Nation, whose historical territory includes San Juan Island.
The canoe is part of the museum’s collection, though museum officials have not been able to locate documentation related to the canoe’s accession. The canoe was stored in a wing of a building that is scheduled for reconstruction, and museum officials worried about how to properly move, store and care for the delicate artifact during the construction project.
Samish General Manager Leslie Eastwood said the canoe resembles those used for near-shore travel and harvesting.
Samish officials visited the canoe, blessed it and ceremonially cleansed it. On April 16, a team led by Samish Councilman Dave Blackinton moved the canoe by truck and ferry to the carving room behind the Samish Gallery of Native Arts in Anacortes. Members of Samish’s oral history class witnessed the canoe’s arrival.
Blackinton will carve a cradle for the canoe, so the canoe does not have to be handled when moved in the future. Samish will return the canoe in its cradle when the museum’s construction project is finished.