Every year Lummi Nation holds a Stommish Water Festival. In 2014, it was the 68th Annual Stommish Festival and held something special. While, yes, this was held over 4 years ago, it is still very much talked about by both Indian and non-Indian communities. It was an event that represented the spirit of diverse communities moving beyond finding common ground and establishing relationships that are still very much active today and serves as a model for the ways in which the Indian and non-Indian communities can come together and share a dream.
Stommish was the dream of the World War I Veterans Herbert John and Alphonso “bunny” Washington. They talked of creating a celebration to welcome home their loved ones returning from World War II. They traveled throughout Puget Sound to other Tribes, into Canada and Vancouver Island to invite them to come and celebrate, bring your canoes to race, song & dance of our Lummi People, Barbecued Salmon and a carnival/games (three legged race, tug–o-war, sack race, sprints) for the children in attendance…
Stommish was first held on the west side of Gooseberry point. The people came by car, truck and by boats/seiners, some Tribes traveled by their boats and placed their canoes on top of their boats. They thanked the people that traveled by giving them bread, eggs; water making sure all the Tribes that came were taken care of. Our people that worked during Stommish were not paid, whether it was judging/monitoring the canoe races, princess/warrior pageants, the song & dance groups from Lummi that performed to the cooks and parking attendants, no one was paid.
The late and beloved Edith and Victor Jones recognized that the west side of gooseberry point was small, as people throughout Puget Sound attended Stommish. They donated the land along Hales Pass were Stommish is currently held today. Their two sons Stanford and William both served in World War II, and it is because of Mr. & Mrs. Jones’s generosity that Stommish has had a permanent home all these years, donating the land to the Veterans. Hyshqe. ~ Stommish webiste (www.stommish.org)
In addition to the annual’s regular events , 2014’s Stommish was special because of two days of new events that spoke to the proposed energy development projects and their impacts on Native communities throughout the West, Pacific Northwest and Canada, in particular the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal out at Cherry Point, sacred lands and waters of Lummi Nation.
On Monday, June 16th
“Sacred Obligations” was an all day event that featured guest Native speakers from around the West, Pacific Northwest and Canada at the Wexliem Community Center on Lummi Indian Reservation. Speakers includde Lummi representatives including Jay Julius, Lummi Indian Business Council member and Elder Jewell James, Rueben George of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, British Columbia, Chief Phil Lane, Jr. of the Ihankwotan Dakota and Chickasaw First Nations and Eugene Kung of West Coast Environmental Law of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Topics of discussion included Cherry Point and the proposed GPT coal export terminal, Keystone Pipeline, Alberta Tar Sands, coal and oil export projects on the Columbia River and in British Columbia as well as a tribute to Billy Frank, Jr. Music interludes were provided by by Dana Lyons, Swil Kanim and the Jefferson Sisters.
In the evening, the “Sacred Talk” featured Winona LaDuke, a renown First Nations activist and one of the founders of Honor the Earth. In 2010, she was a UUA Ware lecturer. She spoke about Honor the Earth, established in 1993 and whose mission is to raise public awareness and raise and direct funds to grassroots Native environmental groups. Honor the Earth had been heavily involved in aiding in the opposition of the tar sands and pipeline projects in Canada and the north midwest interior of the U.S.
Tuesday, June 17th
there was the “Sacred Run and Walk.” This was a sacred “journey” from Cherry Point to the Stommish Grounds on Lummi Indian Reservation. This event was a statement by Native and non-Native participants in expressing their opposition to fossil fuel development projects that will have significant and adverse impacts not only Native communities, but non-Native communities as well. It was also a celebration of honor for the Ancestors of the Salish People who lived and are buried there. This Journey centered on two staffs carved by Master Carver and Lummi Elder Jewell James. There were three components to this Journey. At 8:30 am, runners and watercraft met at Cherry Point for prayer circles and blessings by Lummi Hereditary Chief Bill James. One staff was presented to the runners who then ran from Cherry Point with their staff to the Stommish Grounds, with a stop for a gathering at Haxton Way and Slater Road intersection. The second piece of the staff will be presented to Canoe Youth and carried by water to the Stommish Grounds. At the Haxton Way and Slater Rd. intersection, once the runners arrived, lunch was served by Lummi Commod squad and then Lummi drummers and the Walkers (Indian and non-Indian) then carried the land staff to the Stommish Grounds. Once the runners, walkers and the canoe arrive at Stommish Grounds, the two staffs were brought together in ceremony. Lummi leadership and elders, Native speakers and musicians and representatives from the greater community social justice and environmental organizations spoke and performed. Food was provided by the Lummi Commod Squad and art vendors were present.
Later that evening then“Fisherman’s Forum” was a forum of speakers from the Native and non-Native fishing community expressing their concerns about the proposed coal terminal and oil and gas expansion projects out at Cherry Point and elsewhere and their perspectives on the importance of protecting the land, air and waters of our community and communities beyond. This event is free and open to the public.
Non-Native folk were encouraged to participate in all events and they did from all over the Pacific Northwest Region and beyond. Many of them were UUs!
Here are news coverages on the event:
- Treaty Rights and Totem Poles: How one tribe is carving out a resistance to coal
- Field Notes: a Visit to Lummi Nation’s Sacred Summit and the Protection of the Salish Sea
- Stommish! Oil and water don’t mix
- Stommish: Unity, Spirituality, & a Run Against Fossil Fuels