As Donny Stevenson, the Vice Chairman of the Muckleshoot Tribal Council, explained to Seahawks rookies the adventure they were about to undertake, he offered a bit of wisdom.
"We always try to do this with one heart, one mind," Stevenson told the rookies before they joined members of the Muckleshoot Tribe on canoes in Lake Washington.
Based off the shouts of both joy and fear, as well as the rocking of the canoes on a breezy day, the rookies may not quite have hit that goal of one heart, one mind, but overall the afternoon was a big success anyway based on the smiles on everyone's faces, and the fact that everyone stayed dry…Well, everyone except undrafted rookie nose tackle Jonah Tavai, who, apparently out of respect for Muckleshoot customs, jumped off the dock and into the lake after referring to a canoe as a boat.
"We had a great experience," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said after joining his players on a canoe. "It was tremendous to have the Muckleshoot Tribe out here to take care of us and make this a really fun event for us. It was a little more difficult than we thought—we thought it would just be fun and games, but we had to work at it. Fortunately, we had a great skipper out there and she took care of us. It's really good though to be connected with them and to recognize how crucial this area has been to their history."
With representatives of the Tribal Council in attendance and with members of the Muckleshoot Tribe on each canoe, a group of more than 30 Seahawks rookies took to Lake Washington in three Muckleshoot canoes, including one that was on its maiden voyage after being completed only a day earlier.
And though Seahawks rookies and their coach didn't become experts in one afternoon, there was some valuable team building going on even if they didn't quite function in perfect harmony on the water.
"It is really important that we do spend time and we focus on the opportunities for guys to get to know each other and all of that, because that's going to be the connection that makes the difference down the road," Carroll said. "We're off and running. This is just one of the events—they've done a lot of stuff to get this point—this might be one of the more memorable ones, because that fear factor came in a little bit. This was great."
Said Jaxon Smith-Njigba, one of Seattle's two first-round picks, "It was tough. I didn't trust anyone at first, but you kind of have to with all those guys (on the canoe). You don't want to, but you've got to. It was cool."
In addition to a little bit of team bonding and a fun afternoon, Seahawks rookies also learned some important history about their new hometown and the original inhabitants of the Puget Sound region.
"The Muckleshoot Indian Tribe is a water people," Stevenson said. "A core piece of our identity comes from the waterways here in this region, whether that's the fresh water or the salt water. Primarily, substance was pulled from those resources, whether that's fisheries within the rivers or the fisheries within the salt water, the salmon, just the bounty that the Salish Sea provides. Bottom line is, the Salish Sea doesn't exist without our people; we don't exist without the Salish Sea. It's a core part of who we are, and we're a core part of what this region represents."
Seahawks rookies and Head Coach Pete Carroll used canoes courtesy of the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe for a trip on Lake Washington as part of the team's Rookie Readiness Program.