The Healing of the Canoe: Community Pulling Together

March 14, 2019

Meg Brunner, MLIS

The Healing of the Canoe began as a collaborative project between the Suquamish Tribe, the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, and the Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute at the University of Washington, now the home of the Northwest ATTC. 

Suquamish and Port Gamble S’Klallam identified the prevention of youth substance abuse and the need for a sense of cultural belonging and cultural revitalization among youth as primary issues of community concern. 

Port Gamble S'Klallam
In response, the Healing of the Canoe partnership sought to address these issues through the development of a community-based, culturally-grounded prevention and intervention life skills curriculum for tribal youth that builds on the strengths and resources in the community. 

The Culturally Grounded Life Skills for Youth Curriculum, created through this collaboration, is an adaptable curriculum for Native youth focused on substance abuse and suicide prevention. It uses the Canoe Journey as a metaphor, providing youth the skills needed to navigate their journey through life without being pulled off course by alcohol or drugs – with tribal culture, tradition, and values as compass to guide them and anchor to ground them. 

The Northwest ATTC is proud to offer a range of different training and technical assistance options for the Healing of the Canoe, and has worked with several regional tribes already. At a recent summit of American Indian Health Commission Tribal Leaders, Steve Kutz, the chair of AIHC and Cowlitz leader, expressed his thanks to Leonard Forsman, chairman of the Suquamish Tribe, for his role in the development of the Healing of the Canoe project, “a program that so many tribes in Washington and in the country are now implementing in their communities.” 

The NWATTC offers individual or multiple tribe training workshops, in-person/webinar/phone technical assistance, ongoing involvement in learning collaboratives, booster sessions, and consultation for funding opportunities to support implementation and sustainability. If you are interested, please contact the Northwest ATTC at

For more information about Healing of the Canoe, please watch this “digital story” from Nigel Lawrence of the Suquamish Tribe: 

And be sure to check out the NWATTC’s web page about the Healing of the Canoe project! 

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