Our Highest Honor: 2018 Canoe Journey Blanket

Eighth Generation is deeply honored at any chance we get to collaborate with a tribe, organization, or non-profit to create a beautiful custom wool blanket. This year, we were very proud to have been granted what is perhaps the highest honor in the Pacific Northwest - creating the blanket for this year's Tribal Canoe Journey, the 2018 Power Paddle to Puyallup.

The Power to Puyallup Wool Blanket

We spoke with Connie McCloud, Culture Director of the Puyallup Tribe, who told us the story of the legacy of the blanket design, which originated with an early piece of art by renowned Coast Salish artist Shaun Peterson (Qwalsius). When the Puyallup Canoe Family was first forming just over twenty years ago, the artwork was generously donated by Shaun to be their logo. The design depicts a canoe family on the water against the backdrop of Mount Rainier, encompassed from above by a Thunderbird. The logo was then adapted for the blanket collaboration with a few changes made by Shaun to reflect his development as an artist over the past two decades.

The first ever Canoe Journey, the 1989 Paddle to Seattle, represented a revitalization of the traditional method of transportation via ocean-going canoe, which is centuries old in tribal communities of the coasts of Washington, Canada, and Alaska. It is hosted by a different tribal nation every year, and after asking permission to come ashore in the hosting nation, canoe families participate in a seven day long protocol, where songs and dances are shared, and gifts are given to cultural leaders from around the region.

Cultural leaders being gifted with blankets in Puyallup, WA. Photo by Chris Stearns (Navajo).

It's been twenty years since the Puyallup Tribe first hosted Canoe Journey, and in that time participation has grown exponentially. In 1998, the first Power Paddle to Puyallup hosted twenty canoes - this year, they welcomed over a hundred. And when the original twenty canoes who made the first journey to Puyallup arrived this year, they were gifted with these blankets.

A blanket about to be gifted during protocol. Photo by Chris Stearns (Navajo).

Connie says of the blankets, "We gave a gift that truly represented who we are as a canoe family, as well as a tribe. They show that our culture is not something of the past, but is very present and alive. Our tribe is known as being welcoming and generous, so gifting these blankets is a continuation of the statement about who we are, which is informed by our history. They are a way to extend a message not just of welcoming and generosity, but to show love for the people that came - some of whom traveled from as far as Alaska and California." These blankets represent Eighth Generation's second official Canoe Journey blanket project, the first of which was created for the 2016 Paddle to Nisqually.

Eighth Generation Retail Manager, Stephanie Masterman (Tlingit), with her canoe family

As the first Native-owned company to offer wool blankets, this project goes much deeper than business. This year represented the sixth Canoe Journey for Eighth Generation Retail Manager, Stephanie Masterman (Tlingit). Just one of the Eighth Generation staff members to participate this year, she says of the project, "Eighth Generation’s mission is very much aligned with that of Canoe Journey - to propel Indigenous people into the future while strengthening our cultural identities, in a world that has tried for so long to erase us. This wool blanket is an epic collaboration that I'm proud to feel a part of in more ways than one."