Molly Neely-Walker
A pole carved by Lummi master carver Jewell James is raised at Lummi during the 2007 Canoe Journey. The pole was gifted the following year to the 2008 Canoe Journey host, the Cowichan First Nation on Vancouver Island.

10 Things You Need To Know About the Lummi Nation

Richard Walker

The Lummi Nation is widely known for its art and artists (Jewell Praying Wolf James’ totem poles, for one), its college (Northwest Indian College), its personalities (pro soccer player/fitness model Temryss Lane), and its efforts to defend the environment and sacred places.

Representatives of the Lummi Nation and the United States signed the Treaty of Point Elliott in 1855, which made available a large swath of Western Washington for non-Native settlement. In the treaty, Lummi retained land and certain rights within its historical territory.

Today, the Lummi reservation comprises 21,000 acres (Lummi Nation Atlas, 2008) – including uplands and tidelands on the Lummi Peninsula and Portage Island – but Lummi exercises cultural, environmental and political influence throughout its historical territory, which includes the San Juan Islands. The Lummi Nation has more than 5,000 citizens, 78 percent of whom live on or near the reservation boundaries.

What do we really know about the Lummi people? To answer this question, we consulted several sources. Here’s what they said.

“We are Salmon People”: The Lummi are the Lhaq’temish, the People of the Sea. Since time immemorial, their culture and survival have depended on salmon.

“We fished for thousands and thousands of years, you know, so salmon is a main staple of our diet, and always has been and still is very important,” Lummi artist and former commercial fisherman Felix Solomon said in a video by the National Museum of the American Indian. “It’s a food that satisfies your spirit inside. It’s our identity here in Lummi — we’re salmon people.”

Linda Delgado, salmon enhancement manager of the Lummi Nation’s Natural Resources Department, told NMAI, “A lot of our culture revolves around having salmon. That’s the way we lived and sustained ourselves.”

Strong identity: “We still know who we are and where we come from,” said Tsilixw James, noted artist, educator and hereditary chief of the Lummi Nation. “Our ancestors are still there. We are still a living people. We still use all their ancestral place names.”


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