Editor’s Note: This is part of a November series, “Storytellers: Indigenous Life in the Northwest”
PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Brian Krehbiel, part of the Confederated Tribes of the Grande Ronde, is an artist, a weaver, a canoe and paddle carver.
He spoke with KOIN 6 News about the qualities of a canoe and their special place in his life.
This is lightly edited for length and clarity.
“I call (the canoe) my time machine, because it takes you back to a time when things were a little a little simpler. We all looked out for each other. We all took care of each other. So when you get in the canoe, we’re always constantly seen checking in on one another, seeing how we’re doing.
“We didn’t know anything about our canoes … There was no need for them after we got brought to the reservation, because the waters were only little creeks, little streams.
“It is a ceremony just getting in there, you know, and so just having them and bringing them to life. They have a heart, they have a name, they have that spirit of the wood. They’re alive. …
“All these memories, those feelings come back when you’re in the canoe from the last time you’re on journey or whenever you’re out on a waterway, you start to wonder what they did here, what foods they eat here. When we start taking our canoes out on our local rivers, it made me see the landscape a whole different way, because you’re seeing it from the river now. And now you’re looking at it like, ‘Oh, this would be a beautiful place for a village.’ Well, guess what? It was actually a village site. And so it was really cool to land at a place and have that feeling of ‘This is a good spot.’
“Knowing that where my people come from the mouth of the Columbia River, one of my great-grandmothers come from there. And so knowing that someone had to be in a canoe at some point, that was our way of life. …
“I’m just I’m really grateful that I’m keeping a life for my kids and nephews and everybody. …
“My daughter’s canoe out here that I made, that I gave her when I was carving the nose, a blue jay landed on the tail of it. And it reminded me of my grandma … And so I was like, oh, blue. So I painted it blue just to remind me of the blue jay and grandma. And so I tell my daughter that story of grandma on the blue jays. Just keeping grandma alive.”