Members of the Lummi Nation for the first time in decades brought ceremony and dance to San Juan Island in July and August as part of their project to re-introduce traditional fishing practices to Lummi youth, launching from the shores of San Juan Island National Historical Park's English Camp unit.
English Camp was once the site of a Lummi winter village (including a 600-foot longhouse) and is considered the ancestral home and birthplace of the Lummi people. During the winter, Garrison Bay was an ideal spot for a village because it is protected from harsh winter winds by the surrounding hills. The placid waters provided a safe place to dock canoes, gather clams and fish during the winter.
The Lummi began exploring reef net sites during the park's annual Encampment weekend in late July, joining re-enactors from across the Pacific Northwest on the English Camp parade ground.
Immediately following the activities at the San Juan County Fair in mid-July, fairgoers along with park staff and volunteers helped re-trailer the canoe, called XWLEMI (Lummi), and caravanned to English Camp. Lummi Nation members presented the National Park Service and Friends of San Juan Islands with sand, water and a cedar tree from Lummi Nation.
Chief Bill James addressed the gathering in Xwlemi Chosen (Lummi Language), while others present also shared their thoughts around a circle. The beach was blessed with the sand and water from Lummi Nation and the canoe was launched. The Lummi Youth Canoe family then paddled around the bay as their ancestors once did, singing the Flood Song, Lummi Nation's creation song.
"This was the best moment of my summer—seeing the Lummi youths launch a canoe…and paddle around Guss Island (sacred in their origin myth and part of the park)," said park superintendent Lee Taylor.
The group from Lummi Nation camped for two nights at English Camp with a permit from the National Park Service. Shirley Williams, of the Lummi Shelangen (Cultural Way of Life) assembled a slide show and posted on YouTube in acknowledgment of a significant and magical summer.
A few weeks later they returned to bless a totem pole that had been on a 1,700-mile journey in the United States and Canada to raise awareness of American Indiana and First Nation peoples' commitment to the environment.
"Hy'shqe, thank you, to all those who participated, especially the young people whom we honor as the Keepers of the Traditions and the Protectors of the Circle of Life," wrote Shirley Williams of the Lummi Shelangen (Cultural Way of Life) Department. "We believe that by sharing experiences like this with the youth, they will learn and become Keepers of the Traditions and the Protectors of the Circle of LIfe. Knowledge and practice of the traditions of the Coast Salish People will help return humanity to a holistic balance which resonates in the Schelangen, the way of the Ancestors."