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June 27, 2018

Lummi nation community members gather in pride to watch teams all over Whatcom county compete in canoe races and honoring the veterans of their tribe in the 72nd annual Lummi Stommish Water festival.

From the June 22nd-24th, both Nooksack and Lummi tribes pitched up tents around the Stommish beach, varying from food vendors, a mini amusement park, and many other Lummi traditions.

According to the Lummi Stommish Water festival event page, The Salish festival originated in 1946, honoring the 101 soldiers who had returned from WWII.

Great granddaughter of Chief Henry Kwina and sister to Chief Sa-hun-kin AKA Don Lewis, is JoAnn Lewis Hall, who has attended the water festival ever since she was a little girl.

"This brings everybody together and it's good to come to a group gathering because we've been going to funeral after funeral, and this kind of lifts everything up and we can holler," Hall said.

She comes from a fishing family, which is a noble profession within the Salish tribes. Her parents were sent to native boarding schools, where they were routinely abused until they gave up their cultural traditions. Now Hall is a matriarch of her large family and enjoys seeing her family members socialize.

According to their event page, the Lummi tribe began the "War canoe races," the "Sla-hal Bone Game," and the "Honoring All Veterans" Pow Wow, which progressively became what it is today. 15 year-old Elena Lawrence has won the Lummi Nation princess title for two years in a row.   "I knew that they started canoe racing from the gathering of the tribes and then just developed differently over time," Lawrence said. Lawrence knows that the festival is based off the nation's pride for WWII veterans, but hasn't learned all the history.

Perry M. Adams has a watermelon concession stand with his wife, giving out slices for $2 each. He is also a Lummi veteran who served in the Navy during Vietnam, whose father also served in WWII.  "He landed in Omaha beach on D-day," Adams said. "They came back after the war and two years after they came home they had their first Stommish water festival, and dad said they got the idea from a canoe race in Coupeville which is near Whidbey Island."

The Lummi Nation is proud of their soldiers. Adams and his wife explained that people have the misconception that natives wouldn't be as patriotic, but the Lummi and many other tribes are patriotic because they're protecting their homeland.

"The reason they started this festival was because the veterans formed an American legion post and they needed to raise money for their building, for their post and help veterans," said Adams. "Of course, the community loved the idea and they wanted to welcome home the returning soldiers. "  Adams has had numerous health problems resulting from his time in bomb carriers during his tour in Vietnam. Adams and his wife decided to have a second wedding after his time in the hospital and are planning for their third. They like to joke that she's his brain and he's her heart.

Lummi Nation Water Festival: Project
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