Soldiers help Native Americans finish canoe journey
October 24, 2012
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- Howeeshata traveled by canoe with members of his tribe for two weeks from the home village of La Push to arrive in Olympia, July 29. The hereditary chief of the Quileute tribe, Howeeshata said the long journey was not tiring: they sang songs to motivate them. Regardless, he was still grateful to bring his canoe to the ramp where soldiers from the 295th Quartermaster Company at Joint Base Lewis-Mcchord were pulling watercraft onto trailers.
"Being in the Army, we have had the support of people from all over, civilians and military, and they support us, you know, throughout two wars and so we feel like we should help out where we can," said Capt. Michael Watkins of Stafford, Va., the 295th commander.
Watkins and his troops came to help move approximately 100 canoes out of the water after their crews completed the Paddle to Squaxin 2012. The annual event provides an opportunity for various Native American tribes from Washington and areas farther away to journey in a traditional way and come together in friendship.
"It is what our forefathers did; we're just doing it (on a) different day, different year," said Howeeshata.
Staff Sgt. Marcos Castro of Manati, Puerto Rico, a squad leader, said he volunteered partly out of enjoyment of new experiences.
"I get to know about a lot of different cultures, how they operate," said Castro.
The exposure to new cultures gave 2nd Lt. Tim Vanderpoel of Oakton, Va., a chance to know more about his soldiers.
"It was interesting, we have a few Native American soldiers, so it was kind of interesting to see their tribes out here too, kind of see where they come from," said Vanderpoel, a platoon leader.
"This is a one in a life time opportunity," said Watkins. "I've never been part of an event like this. This is what it's about. It's learning more about others and contributing to this great country and this great nation."