Whatcom View: Veterans, community celebrated at Stommish

The 64th annual Stommish Festival in 2010 on Lummi Reservation.
The 64th annual Stommish Festival in 2010 on Lummi Reservation. THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

For 69 years, we have hosted the Honoring veterans, celebrating Lummi community at Stommish in honor of our warriors.

In 1946, local residents Victor and Edith Jones planned the first Stommish Water Festival to honor their sons, Bill and Stanley Solomon, and other veterans who had returned from the war. Lummi veterans of World War I welcomed back Lummi soldiers of World War II in a ceremony honoring their service, their bravery and their commitment to keeping the citizens of our nation and world safe from harm. The first Stommish Water Festival and its honoring ceremony marked the blessed return of our veterans and a return to an important part of our Lummi way of life.

Today, we honor that history and continue to celebrate all of our community’s veterans at this annual event.

Decades ago, the veterans were greeted against a backdrop of war canoe races on the shores of Gooseberry Point. The waters of Puget Sound have long been the highways of the Coast Salish people, and canoes have always been a part of our lives, serving as transportation in times of war and peace. The tradition of navigating hand-carved cedar canoes has survived for as long as Lummi have existed, and there are only a few people today who can produce a hand-carved cedar canoe. Just as the craft of canoe building takes time and a skilled hand, the canoe races take incredible dedication and training by each canoe club that participates. The war canoe races continue to be a focal point of the festivities. And it’s still an honor to host the races for the many in our community who have served.

In 1946, returning soldiers made up a significant number of all tribal members. Of the 720 members of the Lummi Nation, 104 served in the armed forces and 101 returned safely. Members of the Lummi Nation have always provided military service; some have paid the ultimate price while protecting our country. We’re proud of these brave men and women who serve our country with honor. It’s through their courage, and the bravery of all who serve, that we enjoy the freedoms we have today. And it’s the reason we continue to come together as a community to celebrate all veterans who keep our country safe.

While the way we celebrate may have changed a bit over the years, the reason is the same. We come together in the spirit of community, in partnership with local police and emergency services, with many dedicated staff and volunteers, and with the support and leadership of our Lummi Nation Veterans Department. For five days, we come together as a community to celebrate our veterans and to spend quality time with family and friends. All are invited to celebrate with us — whether you join for the war canoe races, the community carnival, the traditional Sla-Hal “stick” games, the Kwina Mile fun run, or the salmon dinner offered to all veterans and Lummi elders — you’re participating in a tradition that began on the shores of the Salish Sea decades ago to honor those who have fought and served us with honor.

The Stommish Water Festival runs thought June 14. All are welcome. For more information, go online to lumminationstommish.com.


By Tim Ballew II is chairman of the Lummi Indian Business Council.