Lower Elwha Klallam youths make journey to medicine man's camp in Olympics
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Lower Elwha Klallam tribe members recently hiked to Boston Charlie Camp. Participants included, front row, from left, Sonja Elofson, Linea Bowen, Patti Elofson, Rita Charles and Jamie Valadez; and back row, from left, Steve Valadez, Karsten Turrey, Micah Needham, Chris Eddie, Cory Cooke, Maurice Charles and Carmen Charles-Watson. — Jamie Valadez

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — The Lower Elwha Klallam have begun a new tradition in the spirit of the Canoe Journeys — a 26-mile mountain journey to the camp high in the Olympics of the tribe's last medicine man.

The tribe declined this year to participate in the Tribal Canoe Journeys paddle to Bella Bell, B.C., because of the time commitment involved in the 500-mile trip and instead decided to rediscover another traditional tribal journey.

A group of 13 Elwha tribe members, ranging in age from 14 to 65, hiked the 18-mile Seven Lakes Loop Trail from July 30 through Aug. 3, and several made the effort to trek an additional 8-mile round-trip on a side trail to Boston Charlie Camp, said Jamie Valadez, who teaches the Klallam language and culture at Port Angeles High School.

“Not everyone made it [to the camp],” Valadez said.

Boston Charlie Camp, located high in the Olympic Mountains, was occupied each summer by medicine man Boston Charlie until his death in 1928, she said.

She said Boston Charlie, his family and visiting tribe members would spend time on vision quests at or near the camp, and he continued the summer trips to his mountaintop perch even after he reached the age of 100.

Today the route is an unmaintained trail splitting off from the Seven Lakes Loop Trail near Heart Lake.

It is the second year the tribe has taken young tribe members on the hike, and Valadez said she hoped to establish the hike as a new tradition.

The 8-mile hike from the loop trail to the camp and back again was steep and challenging enough that some members stayed behind at Heart Lake while others made the final climb to the camp, Valadez said.

Some of the participants used the day to make their own vision quest, seeking a quiet place for inner contemplation, Valadez said.

Among the group were six Klallam teens and seven adults, including young adults and elders.

“It was on their bucket list, to make this journey,” Valadez said.

During the hike, which traced a path where their ancestors likely gathered medicinal and food plants and hunted during the summers, the group practiced speaking the Klallam language, identified plants and animals in Klallam, and told traditional Klallam stories.

“We became a hiking family,” she said.

At Heart Lake, the group performed a traditional Klallam wedding and ring ceremony for Sonja Elofson and Chris Eddie by a large rock next to Heart Lake.

“It was a circle with the theme 'love.' Then we had Chris and Sonja be in the center of the circle as we presented a woven heart shaped basket. Inside were two cedar rings,” Valadez said.

Before the journey into the mountains, the 13 participants made several practice hikes in the region.

Among those hikes was a trip to the Klallam creation site, located along the Elwha River's path where Lake Aldwell was once located.

The creation site was rediscovered in 2012 after the lake was drained during the removal of the Elwha Dam.

Participants each took a vial of river water from the site, which will be made into a centerpiece for necklaces, Valadez said.

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Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at arwyn.rice@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: August 18. 2014 8:22AM
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