May 7, 2016

Hard to believe that after all the months of planning, the hundreds of hours of vessel preparation and maintenance that once again we are preparing to depart Bellingham with our first group of clients to begin our adventure of traveling the Inside Passage, crossing the Gulf of Alaska and cruising the magnificent Prince William Sound.  On Friday our Leg 1 clients all arrived; some from as far away as Australia. Friday afternoon and Saturday morning were set aside for boat check outs and provisioning.  We all gathered at NW Explorations’ offices at 3:15 on Saturday and were met by representatives of the Lummi Nation who took us over in vans to their reservation.  http://www.lummi-nsn.org/website/index2.html. The Lummi people were the original inhabitants of much of the northwest portion of the state of Washington and southern British Columbia.  Our host was Darrell Hillaire.  Darrell is a past chair of the Lummi Tribal council, his great grandfather was present at the treaty signing in the late 1800s between the Lummi’s and the US government.  Darrell has testified before the US Congress that their tribe should be allowed to be self-governed and they were granted that permission several years ago.

Our first experience was a tour of the reservation and the opportunity to see the magnificent views of Mount Baker, the Olympic Mountains and the waters of Puget Sound.  Our first stop was a welcome in their Tribal offices.  The lobby is stunning with high ceilings and four very large cedar trunks supporting the roof.  It was explained that these represented the family; Father, Mother, Brother and Sister.  They were all connected together at the top.  The walls surrounding the lobby were covered with murals depicting their village as it was in the early 1800’s.  We were welcomed with traditional greetings and songs of their nation.  I think we were all very impressed with the warmth and sincerity of this ceremony.  Indeed it was as though we were honored guests coming into their family home. Next stop was the youth academy that Darrell had founded 12 years ago.  This is a facility that houses high school age boys and girls from the Lummis as well as other First Nations that have no other place to live.  They have had a great track record of these students completing high school and going on to college or work when these kids would have otherwise probably have been in the justice system.

We were treated to a salmon dinner prepared in their traditional manner over an alderwood fire.  What a treat!  Fabulous salmon!!  The youth choir sang their national anthem and a prayer prior to our meal.  I think all of us were very impressed with the manner and respect that both the elders showed to their young people and the respectful manner the young people had of their elders.  After dinner and a brief orientation of our upcoming cruise we visited the tribal cultural center where there were traditional games being played. Two families would sit across from each other.  Both families had their drums.  One family would have a set of two bones.  One of the bones has a stripe.  The bones are hidden in one member’s hands.  The other family plays their drums and sings in their native tongue a song and places a wager.  They then guess what hand the striped bone is in.  If they win they keep the wager, get the bones  and the other family now must sing and place the wager.  Now, understand that there are maybe twenty families all playing this game at the same time.  The drums, singing and good times being had by all.  Very exciting to watch.

We left the gambling and went down to the beach to watch the traditional war canoe races.  We saw the women’s boat finish.  Wow,  very impressive seeing six women all in unison competing to finish first.  That ended our visit with our Lummi neighbors and new friends.  As we returned back to our boats with the spectacular views of Mount Baker along the shore of Puget Sound, I think we all were impressed with the efforts and accomplishments of the Lummi Tribe as they shared their past heritage as well as their challenges for raising their children to be prepared to go forth in the future.

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