Native Village
Youth and Education news
 APRIL 1, 2010 Volume 4

Stillaguamish Tribe carves river canoe
By Gale Fiege
Condensed by Native Village

Washington: Last year, a logging company unearthed seven old-growth cedar logs near the Stillaguamish River. Buried for more than a century, the 300-year-old logs were in good shape and big enough for dugout canoes. They were were offered to Felix Solomon, the Lummi artist.

Today, Solomon is carving the Stillaguamish Tribe's first new dugout river canoe in more than a century. Solomon is staying away from the Haida, Kwakiutl and Tlingit styles that most people recognize as Northwest Indian art forms. Instead, he remains true to the simpler, but equally beautiful Coast Salish designs.

"It's my goal to bring Lummi art back to life through my carving," Solomon said. "This is my homage to my ancestors, my community, my beliefs and the land on which I've spent my life."

Solomon receives help in the labor intensive project. Monty Charlie, Shawn Yanity, and Jeff Tatro are Stillaguamish members who often assist him. Birds chatter while the carvers smooth the canoe's sleek shape. It seems that whenever they are carving these days, the eagles are watching.

"Carving is spiritual work," Yanity says. "It makes you wonder if the eagles aren't the eyes of our ancestors guiding us through this project."

The Stillaguamish were federally recognized in 1976 and are now regaining their culture.  Last summer, the 200-member tribe celebrated its first salmon-welcoming ceremony in more than a generation. The tribes new, 22-foot canoe will play a key role in this summer's ceremony.

"We'll never get back to the way it was," Yanity said. "But we will celebrate our past and the coming day when we launch our new canoe, carved from a tree that was growing when the ancestors walked among the old cedar forests."

A primary mode of transportation, shovel-nose canoes were "the pickup trucks," of the river tribes near the Salish Sea, Solomon said. Flat bottoms, wide bodies and blunt stems and sterns allowed the canoes to carry big loads and float easily in rough waters.

The emerging cedar canoe is a gift from God, returning to help heal the Stillaguamish people, Yanity said.

Like many Stillaguamish tribal members, Yanity, 44, grew up away from his tribal homelands. In the mid-1990s, he and his family returned. Yanity's passion turned to finding out all he could about his Stillaguamish heritage. From 2004 to 2009, he served as tribal chairman. Now he's on the tribal council which has talked about carving a canoe for a long time.

"Because our culture sat on the shelf for so long, the canoe is a huge deal for our tribe," Yanity said. "The thing is, tribal sovereignty isn't about land use, gambling casinos and jurisdictions. In its pure form, it's about our songs, stories and practices. It's our identity and our quality of life.

"I can't wait to get our kids out in it. They are the future carvers and canoe pullers."

Solomon recently finished the canoe's outside and turned the boat over. He plans to drill deep holes as guides when he chips out the wood to form the inside.\

"Our ancestors had to be math whizzes and physics geniuses," said Solomon. "The work here is evolving and it's in process, but it's a blessing and an honor to do this for the Stillaguamish people."

Volume 1         Volume 2          Volume 3          Volume 4

Native Village Home Page

Backgrounds: Robert Kaufman Fabrics:

NATIVE VILLAGE website was created for youth, educators, families, and friends who wish to celebrate the rich, diverse cultures of The Americas' First Peoples. We offer readers two monthly publications: NATIVE VILLAGE Youth and Education News and NATIVE VILLAGE Opportunities and Websites.  Each issue shares today's happenings in Indian country.
Native Village is responsible for format changes.
Articles may also include additional photos, art, and graphics which enhance the visual appeal and and adds new dimensions to the articles. Each is free or credited by right-clicking the picture, a page posting, or appears with the original article. 
Our hopes are to make the news as informative, educational, enjoyable as possible.
NATIVE VILLAGE also houses website libraries and learning circles  to enrich all lives on Turtle Island.
Please visit, and sign up for our update: We are always glad to make new friends!