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Proclamation affirms honor and respect for Coast Salish traditions.

Event coincides with beginning of Intertribal Canoe Journey

By Richard Walker -- Today correspondent

SAN JUAN ISLAND, Wash. - Local and state officials have signed a proclamation recognizing Coast Salish peoples as the First Peoples of this land and these waters.

The proclamation will be read by Bellingham Mayor Tim Douglas July 7 at Bellingham's Boulevard Park, in a day that includes cultural activities and an honoring ceremony; the chairmen of Lummi, Nooksack, Samish, Swinomish, Upper Skagit and Tulalip have been invited. The proclamation names the day ''Tribal Journeys Day'' and affirms honor and respect for Coast Salish traditions and contributions to life in the Northwest.

The proclamation bears the signatures of county and state officials, as well as every mayor in Whatcom County. It states, in part:

''The Intertribal Canoe Journey empowers the Coast Salish Peoples and contributes historically, culturally, educationally, spiritually and artistically to the Intertribal Communities and their neighbors. Relationships are strengthened, family ties are renewed and all ages gather together building communities in a good way.

''The spirit of friendship, honor and goodwill between all Nations is a gift we can give the next Seven Generations.

''This is an opportunity for communities, neighbors and supporters of the Canoe Journey to touch each other's lives.

''Through this proclamation we celebrate the First Peoples' traditions and cultures, honoring them as the first inhabitants of this land and these waters.''

Beth Brownfield is an Intertribal Canoe Journey volunteer from The Honor Foundation, formerly the Indigenous Studies Foundation.

''Nothing like this has ever happened in Bellingham,'' she said of the proclamation. ''What is happening is astounding both to the Lummi Nation and also to residents of the broader county.''

The event coincides with the beginning of the annual Intertribal Canoe Journey which, for the first time, concludes at the Lummi Nation, near Bellingham.

Some 100 canoes will travel from throughout the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia to Lummi, arriving July 30 and staying for five days of celebration. Lummi will host its first potlatch in 70 years.

Lummi expects to host about 13,000 people each day. Lummi's neighbors formed the Paddle to Lummi Community Connections Committee to raise $300,000 to defray the costs of the event, to recruit volunteers and do educational outreach.

Samish Chairman Tom Wooten said the Tribal Journeys Day proclamation will help foster understanding between the region's Native and non-Native population.

''I think it is an honor to be recognized by the leadership of Whatcom. It shows they are mindful of the past as well as looking toward the future,'' he said.

''The tribes are, in fact, governments that have the same issues and responsibilities that municipalities and the state do. [The proclamation] means they understand the sovereignty issue of the Indian tribes in the areas they reside and that we have to work together to make things happen for all the people they represent.''

Wooten called Tribal Journeys Day ''a wonderful day for everybody.''

Tribal Journeys Day is open to the public. It begins with musicians and storytellers from noon to 1 p.m.

From 1 - 2 p.m., 12 canoes from Lummi, Nooksack, Samish, Swinomish, Tulalip and Seattle's Daybreak Star will arrive and, in keeping with Canoe Journey tradition, ask for permission to come ashore. An estimated 360 pullers and family members are expected to attend.

There will be cultural presentations from 2 - 4 p.m., including storytelling and discussions about the Canoe Journey and Paddle to Lummi.

The honoring ceremony begins at 4 p.m. Witnesses will be called in the traditional manner, the proclamation will be read by Bellingham's mayor and there will be a recognition by Lummi Chairman Evelyn Jefferson. Witnesses will then speak.

For more information about the Paddle to Lummi and the potlatch, visit To make a tax-deductible contribution of funds and/or goods, write Lummi Nation Service Organization, 2616 Kwina Road, Bellingham, WA 98226, or call (360) 384-2317. (Write ''Pull for the Paddle'' with your gift.)

For educational materials and a 15-minute DVD on the Canoe Journey, e-mail Nancy Miller at

Richard Walker is a correspondent reporting from San Juan Island, Wash. Contact him at