Lummi Indians were the first settlers on San Juan Island, with encampments along the north end of the island. North-end beaches were especially busy during the annual salmon migration, when hundreds of tribal members would gather along the shoreline to fish, cook, and exchange news. The reservation is a five mile long peninsula which forms Lummi Bay on the west, Bellingham Bay on the east, with a smaller peninsula of Sandy Point, Portage Island and the associated tidelands.
In 1855, the Lummi Nation signed the Treaty of Point Elliot with the U.S., which called for the natives to relinquish much of their homeland in western Washington Territory. In return they were assigned land reserved for them that initially consisted of 15,000 acres. The reservation also was intended for the Nooksacks, Samishes and other local natives, but was primarily inhabited by Lummis. By 1909, the Indians on the Lummi reservation, including several smaller bands, numbered altogether only about 435 souls, a decrease by half in four decades. 3. Language
Xwlemi Chosen is a dialect of the North Straits Salish language traditionally spoken by the Lummi people of northwest Washington, in the United States.
Salmon is a huge part of the Lummi Nation’s diet as well as the culturally and spiritually. During the first Salmon Ceremony, small chunks of each fish are cooked then the remains are laid on a leaf and set off into the sea in respect just before the tribal meal is served.
5. Fishing and Netting
Tribal fishermen continued to reef net until about 1894, when non-Indian fish traps out-competed them, according to the 1974 U.S. v. Washington ruling that reaffirmed tribal treaty fishing rights. A 1934 ban on fish traps in Puget Sound gave tribal fishermen renewed access to their traditional sites, but the 1939 opening of a cannery brought more competition from non-Indian fishermen who were able to reef net in more profitable locations. In the...
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