'It is one of the greatest days of our lifetime'
Billy Frank Jr., chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, beamed as he looked out over the thousands of people crowding the beach at Lummi to greet canoes arriving from Alaska, Canada, Washington state and Oregon for the annual Intertribal Canoe Journey, July 30. ''It is one of the greatest days in our lifetime,'' he said. ''Look over there. All the babies, the kids swimming, people are happy. We should be happy all the time. Look at all the good people, all the good energy, people looking at each other and saying hello.'' This year's gathering, hosted by the Lummi Indian Nation, is themed ''Return of the Potlatch'' and is believed to be the largest gathering ever at Lummi. Canoe families traveled the traditional highways of their ancestors to get here; the northernmost, Bella Coola, began July 7. The gathering includes Lummi's largest potlatch in 70 years, with slahal, traditional gambling using bones and including songs; the traditional wedding of a Bella Coola groom and Lummi bride; and feasting, dancing, singing and gift-giving all week. Miss Washington Elyse Umemoto (Yakama) was scheduled to visit July 31. The event concluded Aug. 4.