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Friday, July 28, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Victim in canoe capsizing was Canadian tribal chief

SEQUIM — A tribal chief from Vancouver Island has been identified as the man who died Wednesday when an Indian canoe heading for an intertribal celebration overturned in windy weather and rough, chilly water, authorities said.

All six people aboard the canoe were dumped into the Strait of Juan de Fuca on Wednesday off Dungeness Spit, Coast Guard Petty Officer Shawn Eggert said from Seattle. The strait runs between the island and the Olympic Peninsula of Washington.

Chief Jerry Jack, 55, of the Mowachaht-Muchalaht First Nations of Gold River, B.C., died as the other five made their way ashore, said Makah Tribal Chairman Ben Johnson.

The reason the canoe capsized and the cause of death were not immediately determined, and an autopsy is pending. Eggert said none of those in the overturned canoe was wearing a life jacket.

Jack had been involved in the saga of Luna, a young killer whale that became separated from his pod and made his home at Gold River until he was killed by a boat propeller in March. Some Indians in the area said they believed Luna embodied the spirit of a dead chief.

Jack's death cast a pall over the annual summer InterTribal Canoe Journey, which was started in 1989 as "Paddle to Seattle" and this year has the theme "Past and Present Pulling Together for Our Future."

The gathering begins on Monday, when the canoes are scheduled to arrive in Seattle, and concludes the following Saturday. The Muckleshoot Tribe of Auburn, south of Seattle, is hosting the event for the first time.

Canoeists paddling along the strait Tuesday to Hollywood Beach in Port Angeles had to battle brisk winds and rough water, the Peninsula Daily News reported. The strong winds Tuesday created swells as high as 6 to 8 feet, Polly McCarty, co-skipper on one canoe, told the newspaper.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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