The Spanish founded the island and named it Isla y Archipelago de San Juan. That is our history. We speak the words almost every day, “The San Juans.” But the first ones did not come in a ship from Europe. They were an ancient people who traveled here on foot after the great ice sheet thawed. More than 8,000 years ago they made their homes on the shores of the islands. They fished for salmon off the coast and gathered oysters and mussels. If you have ever appreciated the pretty purple flowers that bloom in the San Juan national park, then you have seen a primary food source for the islands’ early people. They picked the camas bulbs and cooked them in the earth like potatoes.
So often, we forget about the islands’ first inhabitants – the Lummi People or Lhaq’temish.
Lummi and Saanich Nations are bringing the past into the forefront by joining ancient ways with celebrations of the present. We should all be moving in this direction.
Last Thursday, Lummi and Saanich Nations, dedicated a Reef Net Captain Totem Pole and two Salmon Story Boards to commemorate the centennial. Read more on page 1.
The public ceremony was held in the spiritual site of their ancestors’ village at Pe’pi’ow’elh (English Camp). According to the San Juan National Park Service website the day was meant to foster “greater mutual understanding and respect between all cultures through a shared love of this beautiful place.”
The message is spot on, we can’t rewrite past wrongs, but we can actively learn about the true history of our home’s first inhabitants. We can also be better informed about the present as Coast Salish people still very much exist.
For more information, visit www.lummi-nsn.org.
November is National Native American Heritage Month. The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum join in paying tribute to the rich ancestry and traditions of Native Americans.
Check out www.nps.gov for events.