Docu “Tribal Journey: Celebrating Our Ancestors” chronicles a semi-annual canoe trek taken by Native Americans from Vancouver Island to Tahola on Washington State’s Olympic Coast. Every four years, the odyssey brings together members of some 25 First Nations tribes throughout the U.S. and Canada, its physical re-connection with traditional life abetting a sense of community and heritage. Vid feature is valuable as a cultural record, but lacks much sense of individual drama or overall narrative propulsion. Results are of limited interest outside specialized educational play.
Twenty hand-crafted canoes, some elaborately painted, set out on this Southern journey. It’s a voyage that strengthens intertribal relations as well as sense of Native history and identity among (mostly male, it appears) participants. Successive sections focus on aspects of traditional culture specific to various tribes, from art-making to food preparation. Recited key native mythological tales are interspersed throughout. At each stop, the travelers are greeted by local ceremonies, song and dance. Explanation of their significance would have made “Journey” much more enlightening to general viewers. Helmer Scott Macklin leans on split-screen multiple images that won’t benefit from its likely future as a small-screen entity.