While appreciating Michael Riordon’s letter to the editor regarding the Lummi Totem Pole Journey to Orcas Island, there is something of a misconception I would like to clear up: The Lummi Nation did not use Orcas Island as a place where they came fishing. They actually lived here, year-round, from time immemorial.
There were year-round villages around the island and burial areas around the island that are documented by the Washington State Department of Archeology. Madrona Point was one of those areas. The Lummi had villages in Deer Harbor, Doe Bay Area, and Eastsound. They fished the waters and buried their dead here in the Islands. Over the years I have read the accounts of the Lummi history by non-Indian people in the Islands that gloss over the fact that the Lummi people lived here year-round. The San Juans were their homeland.
One family with a large number of children were the only ones living on Sucia Island and, after the Treaty of 1855 was signed, government agents came and forcibly took their children to the hell that was Chemawa Indian School where many, many died from abuse and heartbreak, and the parents could do nothing about it. I interviewed Native Elders who lived through the Chemawa Indian School experience and that which happened to these children, nowadays, would be called severe abuse and neglect.
When western Washington was opened up to non-Indian immigrants, the Native People were taken from their ancestral lands and their way of life eventually succumbed to what we have today. The people are rising though, now, but I ask everyone to never forget that this was not a fishing ground, this was their home and the place where their ancestors are buried. Can you imagine the heartbreak? Walk here, softly, upon our Mother Earth.