“We are the Lhaq’temish, The Lummi People. We are the original inhabitants of Washington’s northernmost coast and southern British Columbia. For thousands of years, we worked, struggled and celebrated life on the shores and waters of Puget Sound.” -The Lummi Nation-
In pre-Colonial times, the Lummi migrated seasonally between many sites including Point Roberts, Washington, Lummi Peninsula, Portage Island, as well as sites in the San Juan Islands.
The traditional lifestyle of the Lummi, like many Northwest Coast tribes, consisted of the collecting of shellfish, gathering of plants such as Camas and different species of berries, and most importantly involved the fishing of salmon. The Lummi developed a fishing technique known as “reef netting”. Reef netting was used for taking large quantities of fish in salt water. Lummi had reef net sets on Orcas Island, San Juan Island,
The original Lummi spoke the Songish dialect of the Salish language, a cultural feature that persists to the present. They lived in longhouses, and their social structure was family centered and village oriented. There were many interrelationships.
The Lummi encountered foreign intereaction in the 1800s. They traded for half a century with Russians, Spaniards, Japanese and Englishmen prior to contact with traders from the United States.
By 1850, the Americans took up where the others left off. Like their predecessors, the United States traders didn’t desire what the Lummi economy produced; rather, they aggressively wanted their raw materials and land.
By the mid-19th century, the Lummi people began to experience the demise of their vibrant social and political structures. Also around 1850, the Lummi were converted to Christianity through the efforts of the Roman Catholic Casimir Chirouse and later Oblate fathers. A mission was established on what would be their reservation.
The Lummi were forcibly moved to reservation lands after the signing of the Point Elliott Treaty in 1855.
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.
Tribalpedia’s Questions for Comprehension and Discussion
1. What language did the original Lummi speak?
2. What types of food did the people eat?
3. Why was seafood the main part of their diet?
4. What year did the Lummi encounter foreign people and trade?
Today the Lummi Nation is a nationally recognized leader in tribal self-governance and education. They make the following statement: “We understand the challenge of respecting our traditions while making progress in a modern world – to listen to the wisdom of our ancestors, to care for our lands and waterways, to educate our children, to provide family services and to strengthen our ties with the outside community.”
The Lummi have a strong educational support for their children through the Lummi Nation Schools and The Northwest Indian College. In addition, they have emploment and training programs in place.
Lummi Myth: The Story of Duh-hwahk
In the northwestern Cascades stands Mount Baker, the “Bride of the Pacific,” always white robed. In the Lummi Indian tongue the mountain is called Kulshan… In the olden days, so the old folks tell us, Kulshan was a fair and handsome youth who grew apace to man’s estate and then espoused two wives. One of these wives fully equaled her husband in beauty — she was the favorite wife and her name was Duh-hwahk. She bore Kulshan three fine sons. The other wife was no match for Duh-hwahk, in beauty but she was very amiable, very kind and very attractive in manner. This wife was named Whaht-kway. Eventually it came about that the kindness and consideration of Whaht-kway so completely won over her husband that she supplanted Duh-hwahk in the affections of Kulshan.
This, of course, aroused furious fires of jealousy and resentment in the breast of Duh-hwahk, who constantly kept the entire household in dissension and strife by means of her temper and her jealousy. Finally Duh-hwahk resolved to regain Kulshan by artifice. Relying confidently on her beauty and on her former firm sway over her husband she conceived the plan of feigning to desert him. Kulshan resolved to be master of his own household and without hesitation informed Duh-hwahk that she could go as soon as chose and as far as she liked. Duh-hwahk was dumbfounded by this unexpected reply.
She prepared her pack thoroughly, putting therein plentiful supplies of berries, fruit, sweet bulbs and even of beautiful flowering plants of many varieties.
Thus amply provided with all that she desired she then said farewell and fared forth, leaving her three children behind. The children bewailed the going of their mother and with many lamentations besought her to remain. This greatly pleased Duh-hwahk at heart for she now felt assured of melting the indifference of Kulshan. She was sure that he would call her back before she had been able to go any very great distance. She had not gone far, however, before she realized her mistake and richly repented her hasty action. So, as she went along, she would ever and anon look anxiously back. Her heart surged tumultuously with a fond hoping and a vain longing to see Kulshan wildly signal for her return — Standing on the very summits of these hills she would strain with all her might, up to the very tips of her toes, seeking some sign from her loved husband. Sometimes she fancied she was not quite high enough and she would raise to her tip-toes and stretch forth her head in anxious gaze, yearning all the while and striving all the while to be just a little taller. This oft-repeated wish and effort soon began to have its effect upon her and she forthwith began to grow taller…There, looking ever and longingly northward, Duh-hwahk remains to this day and you may see her if you wish — look to the south and east — it is Mount Rainier.