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October 2: Celebration of Cayou Channel officially renamed to honor Coast Salish leader

  • Written by Richard Arlin Walker

A blessing and celebration are set for Oct. 2 along the Pacific Northwest waterway 

It took the U.S. Board on Geographic Names just nine days to approve the renaming of Harney Channel to Cayou Channel — blistering speed for a federal agency accustomed to taking testimony, reviewing documents, and deliberating.

Henry Cayou and his wife, Mary Reed, were married 24 years until her death in 1912. Cayou was the son of a Lummi/Saanich mother and French-American father. Reed’s mother was Tlingit and her father was Irish-American. Islanders in the Pacific Northwest pushed successfully to rename a waterway for the Coast Salish man. (Photo courtesy of the Karen Jones-Lamb family)

“That’s unheard of,” said Ken Carrasco, lead proponent of changing the name of the waterway in the San Juan Islands of northwest Washington state, near the United States/Canada border.

“There was absolutely no negative feedback during the process,” Carrasco said. “The atmosphere, the feeling among the local population seemed to be that this was overdue, that it was something that really needed to happen.”

And so it did. On Oct. 2, 2022 a celebration will take place on water and land to celebrate the renaming of the channel in honor of Henry Cayou (1869-1959), a Coast Salish man who is still the only Indigenous person to serve on the county’s Board of County Commissioners. He was also a successful fisherman, a founder of the islands’ electrical utility, and a local postmaster and school board member.

Henry Cayou and his wife, Mary Reed, were married 24 years until her death in 1912. Cayou was the son of a Lummi/Saanich mother and French-American father. Reed’s mother was Tlingit and her father was Irish-American. Islanders in the Pacific Northwest want to rename a waterway for Henry Cayou. (Photo courtesy of the Karen Jones-Lamb family) Henry Cayou and his wife, Mary Reed, were married 24 years until her death in 1912. Cayou was the son of a Lummi/Saanich mother and French-American father. Reed’s mother was Tlingit and her father was Irish-American. Islanders in the Pacific Northwest pushed successfully to rename a waterway for the Coast Salish man. (Photo courtesy of the Karen Jones-Lamb family)

The channel formerly carried the name of a 19th century U.S. Army general known for abusive and often deadly actions toward Black and Indigenous peoples.

A blessing on the water is scheduled for 8:30 a.m., and officials said canoes, kayaks, sail and power boats and other watercraft are welcome to join the blessing in the channel. A community potluck is set for 2 p.m. at West Sound Community Hall in the Orcas Island community of West Sound.

The name change was approved on July 5 by the Washington State Board on Geographic Names and on July 14 by the federal agency. It’s the second correction of an offensive or inappropriate name change in the San Juan Islands since 2017, when a bay that carried the name of an offensive slur often aimed at Indigenous women was renamed to Reef Net Bay, in recognition of an Indigenous fishing method that originated in the San Juan Islands.

'This was his home'

Cayou Channel is two miles long and a half-mile wide and lies between Orcas Island and Shaw Island, which are part of an archipelago in San Juan County, Washington.


Schedule

SUNDAY Oct 2, 2022

8:30-10:00 AM Awaken the Water

A Sunday morning water blessing of Cayou Channel from Orcas Landing/Bayhead Marina to West Sound Community Club.

Join descendants in a community paddle, sail, power from Orcas landing public dock (near ferry terminal) to West Sound. All welcome in your own canoe, kayak, SUP, sail or power boat.

Join the flotilla anywhere along Cayou Channel.

Tea/coffee and refreshments at West Sound Community Club with descendants.

10:00 AM - 1:30 PM - Intermission for Seahawks game watchers

1:00 PM SET UP for Potluck at West Sound Community Hall

2:00 - 4:00 PM - Blessing of the Cayou Channel and Potluck

Leadership San Juan Islands has reserved and paid for the Hall Rental in appreciation for all that Rosie Cayou has contributed to our learning throughout the years of LSJI.

All invited! Community members, local, state, federal, tribal and community leaders, descendants of Cayou and Harney, maritime users, public interest orgs.

What we need help with:

-Housing/camping space on Orcas for off island canoes and guests

-Snacks, coffee, tea and breakfast casseroles for Breakfast after AM Water Blessing

- invites to state, federal and tribal elected leaders.

-Set-up and Clean-up Support at West Sound Community Hall

- Main Dishes for Potluck

- travel funds for trailering canoes from Anacortes to Orcas.

-paddles, life jackets - paddlers for Orcas Canoe

-safety boat

-get the word out when invites are deployed.

-publicity for the event - local media

To be added to the team, please contact

Gretchen Krampf (360) 317-8220 or email gretchen.krampf@processexperts.com

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