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BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES
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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The art, ritual of steaming canoes

Saaduuts Peele puts more cedar and hemlock on the fire as twilight begins to glow on the shore of Lake Union Saturday December 29, 2012. Saaduuts, a master canoe carver and the artist-in-residence at the Center for Wooden Boats, started the fire at 5 A.M. to begin the process of steaming a new canoe, his seventh in Seattle. "We're opening up the canoe with fire, water and love," he said, standing by the fire. "We're honoring the Duwamish, for they are not recognized, and we are honoring the Haida way." Saaduuts is of the Haida tribe. The fire was built around a special pile of rocks, gathered from Mount Baker, which have steamed three canoes already. After several hours in the fire, the rocks turn cherry hot. The new canoe is filled with saltwater, brought over from Golden Gardens, and the scorching rocks are placed in the canoe, submerged. The water heats up immediately and is covered to steam and spread the inside of the canoe. "What we get out of it is what we put into it," said Saaduuts, who encourages people to avoid anger and distraction in the area and to maintain spirit and calm. He started the fire before sunrise. and will keep it going past sunset until the canoe is done steaming. "We're not going to rush to do it," he said. "We came here to enjoy it. No matter how many times you do it, it changes your life." To participate in the next canoe carving or steaming contact the Center For Wooden Boats.

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