By: Wayne Suttles
B.C. Historical Quarterly, January 31, 1954.


Lummi Peoples – c 1915

The Coast Salish peoples of the inland waterways of Southern British Columbia and Western Washington seem to have formed a cultural and social continuum that extended from the northern end of Georgia Strait to the southern end of Puget Sound or beyond. However, in that aspect of culture that Europeans habitually look to as a basis for classifying people, political organization,
the continuum had no unity at all, and no discernible units. Political organization as Europeans understand it was lacking. Here were only autonomous households. These, singly or in small groups, formed recognizable villages, and groups of these villages formed  recognizable units that we now call “tribes,” but neither village nor tribe had any formally separate machinery of government. Kinship, community of interests resulting from common residence, community of habitual act, and speech were the bases of recognized units. But weaker ties of the same sorts united tribe with tribe. While members of a village might make war upon more distant villages, they obtained wives from and held potlatches for villages immediately around them. Thus a network of marriage relationships and potlatch obligations over lay the whole area. Culture differed gradually in content and in emphasis from one end of the area to the other, but the underlying pattern was the same.

Within this area, linguistic and cultural divisions larger than the tribe were also distinguishable. Such a group of tribes is one that I have called the “Straits” division of the Coast Salish. It can be set off from its neighbours on the basis of two items—its speech and its most important subsistence activity. To this division belong the tribes Sooke, Songish, and Saanich of South-eastern Vancouver Island, and the Semiahmoo, Lummi, and Samish of the Washington mainland to the east. The territories of all but the Sooke met in the Gulf and San Juan Islands, so that they occupied a continuous area that lies right across the present International Boundary. These tribes spoke only slightly differing dialects of the same Coast Salish language; a more divergent dialect was spoken by the Klallam on the Olympic Peninsula. This language,[i] called lk’əñli’nəŋ by its speakers, was unintelligible to speakers of neighbouring languages, that is to say, to persons who spoke only one of the neighbouring languages; bilingual and even trilingual persons were fairly common throughout the whole area. These tribes built their yearly round of subsistence activities around the yearly runs of salmon, the most important of which was the sockeye run to the Fraser. They took this fish in reef-nets set in salt-water channels off the southern shore of Vancouver Island and in the Gulf and San Juan Islands. This fishing technique contrasts with those used by neighbours both to the north and to the south, fishing in streams with smaller mobile nets or with weirs and traps. Associated with reef-netting were several unique ritual practices and a great stress on the private ownership of the fishing locations. In other respects, the Straits tribes differed slightly from one another and perhaps only slightly more from their most immediate neighbours to the north and south.

In their earliest contacts with Europeans the Straits tribes also shared in the same experiences. Their territories were all seen by the first explorers in the 1790’s, though contact was nowhere very great. They were all able to trade with the Hudson’s Bay Company at Fort Langley after its establishment in 1827 and at Victoria after 1843. By 1850 they had all been converted to Roman Catholicism, and by 1875 all had felt the impact of settlement among them of English-speaking Canadians and Americans. Before the middle of the nineteenth century, what white control there was over them was largely in the hands of the Hudson’s Bay Company. But since 1855 the Lummi, the Samish, and a part of the Semiahmoo have been under the jurisdiction of the United States Government, while the Sooke, Songish, Saanich, and the rest of the Semiahmoo have since come under the jurisdiction of the Government of Canada.

 I shall now give a brief sketch of the native culture of the Straits peoples and of their earliest contacts with Europeans; then I shall devote the remainder of this paper to the post-white history of one of them, the Lummi of Washington.[ii]


The aboriginal culture of the Coast Salish of this region was vastly different from that of the Europeans who met them. It lacked many features that have been basic in Old World civilization for several thousand years—agriculture, animal husbandry, metallurgy, a system of writing, hereditary tribal rulers, elected tribal councils, an organized priesthood, a belief in an omnipotent deity. It lacked many of the features that Europeans had already encountered in the cultures of natives elsewhere in the New World—the corn and squash and matrilineal clans of the Iroquois, the tepees and feather bonnets and warrior chiefs of the Plains tribes. The words “chief” and “tribe” themselves cannot be understood in the same sense as they are used for Indians east of the Rockies. What are called “chiefs” were leaders with prestige but without clearly defined political power; what are called “tribes” are groups of people forming linguistic and cultural, but not political, units.

Coast Salish technology was basically simple. Knowing how to work stone enabled men to produce cutting-blades; knowing how to twist or spin vegetable fibres enabled them to make a variety of cordage. With these they made woodworking tools, and with woodworking tools they made the great cedar-plank houses they lived in and the great cedar dugout canoes they travelled in. With cutting-blades and cordage they made the great variety of spears, arrows, harpoons, hooks, and nets that they used in taking fish and game. And the Northwest Coast was so rich in fish and game, and methods of fishing and hunting were so efficient, that this area not only supported as large a population as has lived any where without domesticated food plants and animals, but also gave them the leisure to develop art and ceremony.

Coast Salish society was divided into politically and economically independent households. Each great cedar house held several families, as we would understand the term, united by bonds of kinship—usually their heads were brothers or male cousins. Men usually took wives from outside the household, so each of these households was united by bonds of marriage. These bonds required the exchange of food and wealth and some ceremonial co-operation.

In addition to this division into local units, each unit was stratified. Society here was not at all equalitarian: there were slave and there were free, and among the free there were high and low, noble and commoner. But there was no formal political organization. Each house was led by its highest-ranking member or members. A wealthy and strongminded house-leader might impose his leadership upon other households, but through ties of kinship and marriage and the obligations that followed, not through institutions that we would call political. Early whites saw leaders and called them “chiefs,” saw aggregates of people and called them “tribes,” but neither word then meant the same thing here that it meant in Eastern North America. A few old Indians can still tell you there were no chiefs until they were appointed by the missionaries and the Indian Agents.

The kernel of beliefs that may be called religion seems to have been something like this: In the beginning the world was quite different from what it is to-day. The First People lived then. They looked like us but were called Deer, Raven, Mink, Wolf, and such names, and they also could use the forms that we now associate with those names. There were also then many dangerous beings. Then a powerful being came through the world and transformed things. He transformed the dangerous beings into rocks and other natural features, and he transformed Deer, Raven, and the others into their present forms—to be food for or to help the Second People. The Second People appeared. They were the Indians. To them the Transformer taught the essential arts of life, to a few of the First Men of these Second People he taught secret words and songs giving supernatural power, and to all he taught that power might be obtained from nature—from animals, plants, and natural objects—by bathing, fasting, and removing from oneself all human taint. The Transformer then went away and came back no more.

The function and the status of the individual in Coast Salish culture seems to have depended upon what he owned. Material possessions— food and wealth in blankets, canoes and slaves—were important. But they were acquired only to share. It was the mark of a great man that he had plenty and that he was liberal with it. A man ought to have food to share with the members of his own household. He ought to have wealth to give to his wife’s people and other guests at intertribal feasts. The height of liberality was displayed in the feast well known by its Chinook jargon name “potlatch.” But the essential feature of this giving was that it validated the status of the giver or some member of his family and demonstrated the ownership of some non-material possession.

Material wealth itself was an indication that a man had non-material possessions. It was the non-material things that brought him the wealth. How could he better demonstrate his ownership of non-material things than by liberality with their products, material wealth? By giving away material wealth he established good relations with others for his family and household, while at the same time he was able thereby to preserve and cherish those non-material possessions that caused him to be wealthy.

Non-material possessions, then, were what Coast Salish stressed. These were of three sorts: First, there were rights that one inherited from his ancestors; second, there was instruction, private knowledge, that one obtained from his fellow man—possibly from an older member of the family but not necessarily, since it might be purchased or even stolen; and, third, there was supernatural power acquired directly by the individual by fasting and bathing and seeking it in nature.

Inherited rights included names, rights to fishing locations, clam and bulb beds, and rights to certain songs, dances, and other performances. Inherited names were necessary to upper-class status and participation in ceremonial life. Fishing locations, clam-beds, etc., clearly were sources of wealth. Inherited songs, dances, and other performances were often regarded as being used for individual purification or for the well being of the community, but, in fact, their main function seems to have been to display and to validate status.

Knowledge acquired from others included knowledge of the uses of plants for herbal remedies, which might lead to professional status as a healer. It included knowledge of spells and incantations, some of which might be used in hunting or fishing, some in crafts, some in sports, and some to separate or reunite sweethearts or husbands and wives. Knowledge of such spells and incantations led to specialization as a ritualist. Private knowledge also included something called “advice.” Some families were said to have advice to give their children; others had none. This advice consisted of rules of conduct, some ordinary enough, but some depending on knowledge of forms of behaviour which served to set off upper-class people from lower-class people. It also included knowledge of one’s own genealogy and great past and of one’s rivals’ family skeletons-in-the-closet. Advice was essential for upper-class status.

Possessions acquired directly from the supernatural included guardian spirits and the songs and dances given by guardian spirits. Spirit power conferred a variety of abilities that led to professional status. That is to say, the warrior was believed to owe his ability to his possessing a warrior’s guardian spirit. Similarly, an “Indian doctor” could find lost human souls and cure illness through his doctor’s guardian spirit. A seeress could see into the distance through her guardian spirit. Expert hunters and craftsmen owed their abilities to special spirits.

The acquisition, transfer, and function of these possessions is a constant theme in the life-cycle of the individual. The infant at birth consisted of nothing more than a body, which was subject to physical ills and contaminations, a “person,” which was easily displaced or stolen and the loss of which meant another sort of illness, and the “life,” the animating entity the loss of which meant death. This was the bare individual who ought to be adorned with the incorporeal possessions—the inherited rights, the knowledge, and the spiritual power—that were necessary to completeness. This individual was a new stone in a mosaic of family and community relationships; all his life he would be a part of this mosaic, his value to it depending upon the colour and brilliance of his possessions.

At his birth the infant and his mother were aided by a midwife, probably a kinswoman, who owed her professional status to her possession of private knowledge, either of herbs or of spells. After the birth, its contaminating effect on both the parents made it necessary for them to cease ordinary activities, which they resumed after being treated by a person having the knowledge of the proper spells and ritual acts needed to purify them. The infant received a cradle and its accoutrements from kinsmen of his grandparents’ generation. In his cradle, if he were not a slave child, he would be bound about the forehead to produce the flattened head that was the mark of a free man.

As a child, the individual was cared for by older siblings, uncles and aunts, grandparents, and great uncles and aunts, as well as parents. Persons of the grandparents’ generation were particularly important; publicly an old man might lecture the children on their behaviour and make them bathe on winter mornings to toughen them; privately among upper-class families an old person might instruct a child in its family history, in upper-class values and etiquette, and in methods of obtaining guardian-spirit visions. In this way the upper-class child got the “advice” necessary for upper-class status. For all children of both sexes the toughening led to deliberate guardian-spirit quests with fasting, bathing, and scrubbing the body with conifer boughs. The vision sought at this time might come then or might come unsought later in life. The child of an upper-class family also received his first inherited name, at a gathering that had other functions as well, through the expenditure of some wealth. At puberty, girls and boys as well were given special treatment. In the case of a girl the danger of contamination from the first menses was great, and so this was an occasion for purification by a ritualist possessing the proper formulae and for the display of the family’s inherited rights.

For the adolescent there was little freedom in the selection of a mate. A boy’s family chose his future wife from a family with which they wanted an alliance and carried out most of the negotiations. The wedding itself was an occasion for the exchange of wealth and privileges; the groom’s family brought a bride-price of wealth in blankets and other goods; the bride’s family nearly matched the wealth for a dowry and perhaps added to it an inherited name or other privilege to be used by the as yet unborn son of the couple. Later exchanges of food and wealth might be carried on for years.

Some time between puberty and middle age most persons became “new dancers “; that is to say, they began to sing during the winter dancing season songs acquired from their guardian spirits. The spirit song seems to have been regarded as an entity separate from the spirit seen in the vision. In the winter, songs came to their owners and caused an illness that was relieved only by singing and dancing. During the winter dance season, individuals or households sponsored feasts at which all persons who had spirit songs became possessed, and one at a time sang and danced. Some songs came unsought to persons in middle age, especially after a tragedy; singing them gave their owners a feeling of well-being only. Others were the means whereby a person tapped the power of the spirit who had bestowed the song. Some of these gave powers of divination, clairvoyance, and communication with the dead. On Vancouver Island one kind of song could be induced by older dancers into a young person who had not yet had a vision. The acquisition of a song, especially of this last sort, and the first singing of it, comprised an occasion comparable to any other life crisis, an occasion that might require purification by a ritualist, the display of an inherited privilege, and the expenditure of wealth. Only the shaman did not use his shamanistic spirit song as a winter dance song; he used it only to bring into him the power to handle the souls and guardian spirits of others, enabling him to treat the sick.

When a person became ill, the family made a preliminary diagnosis and, depending on it, called in a shaman, ritualist, or person with one of the more specialized spirit powers. At his death, persons of other professions were called—an undertaker to care for the body, a woodworker to make a coffin, a medium or a ritualist to burn the personal effects of the deceased and to purify his house and kinsmen; each of these persons owed his profession to the possession of special knowledge or spirit power. It was expected that the non-material possessions of the deceased would be inactive for a time but might be used by his descendants later. His name was taboo until given to a descendant. His more material privileges went, ideally though not always, to his eldest child. His guardian spirit and song might be obtained again by anyone, but close relatives were more likely to get them. His “person” or soul became a ghost and was for a time close to this world; it was believed possible for it to be born again into a descendant. Some time after a man’s death, his family found the occasion to pay the persons who assisted them at the time of the death and possibly to display some memento of him. This display required the expenditure of wealth, and at the same time probably better established their claim to what he had left them.


The first recorded European contact with any Coast Salish was in 1790, when the Spanish Quimper expedition explored both shores of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the country of the Sooke, the Songish, and the Klallam. In 1791 the Eliza expedition explored further; the Spanish passed through Padilla Bay and Bellingham Bay into the southern end of Georgia Strait at least as far as Point Roberts and returned southward evidently by way of Haro Strait, thus seeing the country of the other Straits peoples. In 1792 the Spanish continued their exploration while the British Vancouver expedition completed the task. Vancouver explored both Puget Sound and the rest of Georgia Strait and established the fact that the island named after him is indeed an island.

Members of both Spanish and British expeditions left some record of observations of the native peoples; none of their observations on native culture reveal anything startlingly different from what might be expected from work with the traditions of living Indians. But both Spanish and British accounts indicate that the native peoples already had at least indirect contacts with European culture. In 1790 Quimper observed the Klallam at Dungeness using as ear ornaments pieces of copper, beads, and English, Portuguese, and Chinese coins; he believed they had obtained these in trade with the people at the entrance of the strait, that is, the Makah.[iii] The following year, 1791, at Point Roberts, the Spanish encountered many Indians fishing for salmon, probably the Saanich and Semiahmoo at their reef-net locations. Here they were told, or believed that they were being told, that larger vessels had been in Georgia Strait before, and from them the Indians had obtained engraved brass bracelets, which the Indians showed them. They also learned that these Indians traded with others who came on horseback through a flat country “on the north,” probably meaning up the Fraser.[iv]  Vancouver found the natives of Queen Charlotte Strait already armed with muskets.[v] 

Whether anyone preceded these explorers or not, British and American trading-ships undoubtedly followed them. But during the period of maritime trade that brought the Spanish and British explorers into the Strait of Juan du Fuca, the interest of the traders was primarily in obtaining sea-otter furs, which they took to China. As the Spanish observed, the natives inside the strait had few sea-otter pelts, so it is probable that fewer trading-ships appeared inside the strait than visited the Nootka and others to the north.


However, early in the nineteenth century, fur-traders began reaching toward the coast from the landward side; this time the interest was primarily in beaver. In 1808 Simon Fraser, of the North West Company, descended the river named for him, looked briefly at the gulf, heard from the Musqueams that he should beware of the Cowichans, and returned. This expedition was followed by a period of little or no contact between the fur-traders and the people of the strait and the gulf. Meanwhile the Hudson’s Bay Company, the North West Company, and the Astorians were establishing posts on the Columbia from its mouth to its headwaters, and on the Upper Fraser. Then the North West Company absorbed the Astorians and the Hudson’s Bay Company absorbed the North West Company, acquiring a monopoly over the fur trade of the entire area. Finally, in 1824 McMillan and Work came north from the Lower Columbia to reconnoitre the Lower Fraser; in 1827 McMillan returned to establish Fort Langley. The following year Simpson made what was only the second trip down the Fraser made by a European. Fort Langley, from its founding until 1843, was the centre of trade for tribes throughout Georgia Strait and up Puget Sound at least as far as Port Madison. The Fort Langley Journal, kept during the fort’s first three years, gives an impressive picture of the goings and comings of numerous peoples on the Lower Fraser.[vi]  After 1843 Fort Langley took second place to Victoria, for the Straits people at least, as the centre of trade. Victoria also became a trading centre for native tribes far up the coast.

The aim of the fur-traders was not to revolutionize native culture. The fur-traders wanted only a re-emphasis; primarily they wanted the natives to spend more time hunting fur-bearing animals and less time quarrelling among themselves. They also needed the natives to some extent as a source of labour and of food—fish, meat, and potatoes. The additions that they made to native culture were mainly in material culture rather than in social organization or religion.


It is quite likely that the Coast Salish learned something of Christianity from the fur-traders or even from other Indians before they had direct contact with missionaries. The tradition that there was something like the Prophet Dance of the Plateau suggests this. However, the first recorded contact with missionaries was in the late 1830’s. Occasional contact continued through the 1840’s, but steady contact between missionaries and natives probably did not exist until the 1850’s.

In 1837 two Roman Catholic priests, Blanchet and Demers, arrived on the Lower Columbia and established a mission on the Cowlitz River in Coast Salish territory. In 1839 they were visited by several Puget Sound Indians; between that year and 1843, Demers, Blanchet, and Bolduc preached to Indians at Nisqually, Whidbey Island, Fort Langley, and Victoria. Probably the first priest that Straits people saw was Demers in 1841. The priest baptized children, taught prayers and hymns in Chinook jargon, and distributed and explained the “Catholic Ladder,” a piece of wood with groups of notches and symbols carved on it to represent the passage of time and the principal events since Creation. The first response of the natives was one of apparent enthusiasm; native leaders gathered their followers for worship and enforced obedience of some of the rules. But this initial enthusiasm waned and plans to establish a mission on Whidbey Island did not materialize.

There was apparently little contact between the Straits people and the missionaries again until the early 1850’s. In 1847 Demers was appointed Bishop of Vancouver Island, but he was not able to reach Victoria until 1851, when he discovered to his dismay that an inexperienced priest had just preceded him and had baptized and married many Indians without having given them proper instruction in Catholic doctrine, thus making future work more difficult. This priest, whose name is not recorded, may have been the first to visit the Saanich and Cowichan, although many from these tribes may have seen Demers earlier on the Fraser. Regular contact with side of the boundary was Father Casimir Chirouse, who established a mission at Tulalip on the Snohomish Reservation in the same year, 1857. During the next few years, chapels were built for most of the tribes in the Straits area. Chirouse was especially active among the Northern Puget Sound and Straits tribes.[vii] 

Protestant influence was later and less successful. In time a few tribes—the Klallam, the Twana, and the Nooksack, to name three—were converted to Protestant denominations, and Protestant minorities in time came to exist elsewhere; but this was part of a later phase of history. The missionaries aimed at a much more profound change in native culture than did the fur-traders. While the fur-traders seem to have sought to influence the native culture only in a few of its aspects to suit their own needs, the missionaries obviously sought to revolutionize native culture. Whether they were conscious of it or not, they were making a direct attack on native social organization as well as on native religion when they struck at the crisis rites, the guardian spirits, and shamanism.


Probably the first independent white man to settle in Straits territory was W. C. Grant, who purchased land from the Hudson’s Bay Company on Sooke Harbour in 1849. In the next decade, settlers established themselves near enough to most Straits villages for rather constant contact. In 1850 and 1852 Governor James Douglas negotiated a series of treaties with the Straits tribes of Vancouver Island by which they ceded all of their lands except their accustomed village, camp, and fishing sites; most of these sites later became reserves. In 1855 Governor Stevens of the Territory of Washington persuaded the tribes of Western Washington to sign treaties ceding their lands except for certain areas to remain as reservations, each for several tribes; in addition, fishing and hunting rights elsewhere were guaranteed. Of the Straits tribes in Washington, Klallam and Lummi representatives clearly signed; Samish and Semiahmoo perhaps did not, but later interpretation made them subordinate to the Lummi and obliged to settle on the Lummi Reservation. The Klallam were supposed to go with the Twana on the reservation at Skokomish. In actuality those tribes who were assigned to reservations that were in the territories of other tribes generally did not move. The result was that those without reservations were usually left without legal protection from white settlers, who often appropriated their village-sites and drove them off.

After the discovery of gold on the Fraser in 1858, white settlers were perhaps a minor nuisance to some of the Straits tribes compared to the stream of transients bound for the goldfields. In 1859 ten or twelve thousand came to Victoria and crossed through the Gulf Islands or San Juans to the river. Others landed on the Mainland at what became Bellingham and Blaine, to go overland or up the Nooksack River from there. Probably of the Straits tribes the Songish, the Lummi, and the Semiahmoo felt most the impact of the gold-rush. But the heavier settlement left by the gold-rush marks the beginning of constant white contact for all.



The presence of Europeans on the North American Continent had its effect on Coast Salish population even before the first recorded contact. Mooney calculates that North-western North America experienced its first smallpox epidemic about 1782, nearly a decade before the Spanish sailed into the strait, and that losses everywhere were heavy. Native traditions corroborate the pre-contact date and indicate that several villages were completely wiped out, while all suffered losses. Later epidemics came in 1852 and 1862, but probably with less severity.

Another factor contributing to a decline in population was the increase in raids from northern Indians, especially the southernmost Kwakiutl group, known locally as Yukulta. The Yukulta evidently received firearms a few years earlier than the Salish; they already had muskets in 1792. This advantage, perhaps added to a culture that already valued aggression, enabled the Yukulta to expand from their original homes on Johnstone Strait down Discovery Passage to Campbell River and Cape Mudge, where they replaced the Salish-speaking Comox. From here they raided the Coast Salish, going as far south as Puget Sound, and even ascending the Fraser River a short way. They killed, looted, and carried off women and children as slaves. These activities persisted until the 1850’s or even later.

The Straits tribes themselves seem to have been expanding their territory just before discovery; the Lummi and possibly the Samish had only recently reached the Mainland from the San Juan Islands. Then, when the smallpox wiped out a small tribe on Boundary Bay, the Semiahmoo took over their territory. After the introduction of firearms there seems to have been some fighting at the western end of Straits territory; according to one account, the Sooke employed the Makah to wipe out another small tribe on Sooke Bay so that they could expand westward. But the combination of epidemics and raids from the north produced some empty pockets in the centre of Straits territory. The Gulf and San Juan Islands were particularly vulnerable to attack from the north, and probably for this reason the Saanich villages at Active Pass and elsewhere in the Gulf Islands moved to the Saanich Peninsula. In the San Juan Islands two or three Lummi villages and one or two Samish villages were nearly wiped out by smallpox, and the survivors moved to Mainland villages. These tribes still used the islands season ally, but no longer built their winter villages there; that is, they no longer made them their bases of operation. Epidemics left another gap on the south shore of Vancouver Island, between the Sooke and the Songish. A part of this was filled, just after Victoria was established, by Klallam from across the strait.

 For 1780 Mooney estimates the population of the three Vancouver Island tribes—Sooke, Songish, and Saanich—as totalling 2,700; on the Mainland he puts the Semiahmoo at 300 and the Lummi and Samish together with the Nooksack at 1,000.[viii] Kroeber[ix] points out that Mooney’s figures seem generally a little high for the Coast Salish of British Columbia and a little low for those of Washington. As a matter of fact, Gibbs[x] gives the following figures for 1854: Semiahmoo, 250; Lummi, 450; Samish, 150; Nooksack, 450; totalling 1,300, the same as Mooney’s total for these four tribes for 1780. It is my feeling that Mooney’s 1780 figure for the Vancouver Island tribes comes closer to being correct, but that the figure for the Mainland Straits tribes (that is, the Semiahmoo, Lummi, and Samish, excluding the Nooksack) should nearly equal it. This would mean a pre-smallpox total of nearly 5,000 for all six tribes, which is more in line with Mooney’s estimate of 5,500 for the Island Halkomelem and 2,000 for the Klallam.


The changes in Straits Salish material culture that occurred during the early contact period were mainly additions and substitutions of relatively isolated elements that did not disturb underlying complexes.

The Straits tribes evidently obtained metals from other natives before they had direct contact with whites. Iron or steel was substituted rather rapidly for stone as the material for blades of woodworking tools— knives and adzes. To the native inventory, traders added steel axes. The increased efficiency of the new tools may have stimulated a little more carving than had existed previously, but there was no development of this art comparable to what seems to have occurred on the coast to the north. This in part reflects a difference in the interests of the two cultures. But the new tools did help to satisfy an increased need for fortifications and for house posts and planks to replace those destroyed by enemy raids. Metals also replaced stone for the points of game and war arrows and replaced shell or bone for the points and blades of harpoons. Bone continued to be used for other arrow-points, and antler for harpoon spurs. Traders introduced large iron cooking-pots; these replaced to some extent the boxes and baskets used for stone-boiling and, since cooks were now able to boil directly over a fire, probably made stews more popular.

Potatoes were probably introduced by the Fort Langley traders soon after 1827; they were also spread from tribe to tribe, some receiving them before they had direct contact with the whites. Potatoes were generally planted and dug up by women with digging sticks; their cultivation and use fitted rather easily into native gathering practices.[xi] 

Firearms were also introduced early in the last century. The gun came to replace the bow and arrow for single hunters hunting larger land game, but the deer drive with the net may have been used longer. Sea hunters came to use guns for killing sea-mammals and harpoons for retrieving them. The native methods of taking waterfowl, with nets and spears, were used until much later, probably being the most productive while waterfowl were still plentiful. The gun also replaced the bow and arrow as the weapon of defence, but the club may have continued as the weapon of offence in the surprise night attack.

In pre-contact times, trapping was probably not a very important activity; a deadfall was used for bears and the smaller fur-bearing animals; beaver were possibly harpooned; the furs were perhaps of not much more importance than the flesh. The market for furs that the traders provided undoubtedly increased trapping, and perhaps the native deadfall was used more than previously, even after the introduction of the steel trap.

Some practices associated with hunting and with skin-dressing may have been introduced by Hudson’s Bay Company employees—the use of the snowshoe, for example, and the use of smoke in tanning. Skin garments became more widely used; in this, local Indians were probably copying the dress of Hudson’s Bay Company employees. Blankets made on the roller loom from mountain-goat wool, dog wool, and other native materials were probably important items of wealth in pre-contact times. After the arrival of the Hudson’s Bay Company, these were supplemented by the blankets that the company paid out for furs, local foodstuffs, and labour. The Hudson’s Bay blankets became the most important item of wealth, not the most valuable, but almost a unit of value by which the more valuable items, such as canoes, guns, fine skin garments, slaves, and native blankets, could be measured.

The increase in raids from the north, its effect on population, and the increased need for defence have already been mentioned. By the 1840’s nearly all of the larger villages on the strait and on Northern Puget Sound had stockades for refuge in time of danger. Informants’ descriptions include such items as trenches with sharpened stakes, poisoned stakes, tunnels to loopholes in hillsides, and pitch flares that could be hoisted to the tops of poles. Accounts of Samish, Lummi, Semiahmoo, and Saanich forts indicate that they were probably built in the 1820’s or ‘30’s. They may have been inspired by the forts built by the whites, but this cannot be said with certainty.

I believe that smoking was introduced by the whites. It is clear that the natives smoked kinnikinic, madrona (arbutus) leaves, and yew leaves, and in stone pipes. But anecdotes describe how surprised the natives were when they first saw whites with smoke issuing from their mouths. One informant who related such an incident suggested that the native leaves were first used to adulterate the traders’ tobacco because it was too strong to take straight.

Alcohol was, of course, introduced by whites, but I do not believe any method of manufacture was ever introduced or has ever been used; the Straits people have always obtained alcohol from the whites. One informant’s account, which may refer to this period, tells how a trading ship gave the Lummi a keg of rum; the Lummi poured it over a great feast-dish filled with salmonberries and ate the rum-soaked berries with their spoons. But probably alcohol was not obtained very often before the 1850’s.


 Native social organization was undoubtedly disturbed by three fac tors—the decline in population, the increase in total wealth, and the broadening of contacts among native groups.[xii]

The decline in population, which evidently began with the devastating epidemics of 1782 or thereabouts, probably had the effect of shifting persons into positions they would not otherwise have occupied. One of the requisites for upper-class status was family continuity maintained by tradition; lower-class people, in the words of one informant, were people who had “lost their history.” Very likely children orphaned by epidemics or raids from the north “lost their histories” and were added to the ranks of the lower class. Some of the separate villages in serf-like status may have been created by the loss of all adult upper-class persons. In other villages, persons remotely related to wiped-out upper-class families may have assumed their privileges with an imperfect knowledge of the associated traditions. In a society where private knowledge is valued as highly as it was and is in Straits Salish society, a sudden loss of a part of its personnel could mean actual cultural loss.

The new wealth, trade blankets, guns, and other goods, and the new methods of gaining wealth, through the sale of furs and labour, were probably the basis of an increase in social mobility. Hill-Tout writes of a class of nouveaux riches among the Songish; my data would not permit me to speak of such a “class,” but I am certain that individuals raised their status by gaining wealth from the whites. For example, the granddaughter of Kwetiseleq, the Semiahmoo “chief” of the 1850’s, said that her grandfather had become rich by selling furs at Fort Langley and had bought slaves with what he had earned.[xiii]

A broadening of contacts among native tribes began during the early contact period and has persisted to the present. It appears that in pre-contact times there was occasional fighting among rather close neighbours. This was discouraged by the traders and later by the missionaries and government agents. The Salish tribes themselves may have felt the need in time to maintain peace while dealing with the whites, but also, they felt a growing need for co-operation among themselves against the Kwakiutl. According to accounts, some of them published,[xiv] the Salish finally retaliated by sending against the Kwakiutl one or two expeditions that involved the co-operation of parties from several tribes. (Evidently tribes from the Nanaimo to the Suquamish and the Skagit participated; the degree of co-operation and basis of organization, in what appears to be a rather loosely organized society, presents an interesting problem which has yet to be solved.) This need for co-operation, together with the increased amount of wealth available, may have speeded up the process of substituting the potlatch for war, a process that has been described for the Kwakiutl,[xv] and which seems to have occurred among the Salish as well.

Another factor, but probably of minor importance, in the increase in contacts among natives, was Chinook jargon. Chinook jargon, a sort of pidgin Chinook, evidently grew up on the Lower Columbia in the early maritime trading period and was spread northward by the Hudson’s Bay Company, missionaries, and settlers. It may not have reached Puget Sound until around 1850; Swinomish informants have stated that the Indian who interpreted at the Treaty of Point Elliot in 1855 was the first man to learn Chinook in this area. It was a useful though limited means of communication between Indians and whites, and probably also among Indians who could not communicate otherwise.[xvi] 

Another practice by which the natives both widened their social relationships and gained economically was that of supplying the whites with women. Many native women were taken as wives in permanent marriages, many were taken as temporary wives, and many merely used for the moment. In the native culture a marriage was regarded as a bond between families and was generally arranged by the families rather than by the couple. Usually the family of the prospective groom began negotiations with a gift of food. If this was accepted, the groom himself might appear, to wait at the prospective bride’s door until he was accepted; the bride’s family signalled acceptance by offering food to him. Then his family brought an agreed amount of wealth to give as a bride price and received with the bride a dowry of nearly the same value. Further exchanges of property occurred later. If both families regarded the bond between them politically and economically useful, they sought to make the marriage a stable one. To a Salish leader a white trader offering blankets for his daughter probably appeared as a good prospective son-in-law and potential ally. To the trader, unaware of the obligations a native marriage involved, it may have seemed more like buying a chattel. On the other hand, it was also possible for the trader to buy a woman as a chattel if he chose to buy a female slave.

Prostitution is not universal and was probably lacking in aboriginal Straits culture. Where it exists, it is culturally defined; from the view point of European culture it is difficult to draw the line between prostitution and marriage by purchase. From the Salish view-point even a marriage of short duration was still a marriage if some formal exchange of property had taken place and the intent to establish a bond had been announced. If it did not last, it was merely a poor marriage. In time some Salish slave-owners learned to prostitute their slaves to the whites, and some free women undoubtedly entered the profession themselves, but I am inclined to believe the Salish when they deny that men consciously prostituted their daughters as the northern people did so systematically for many years. The northern peoples’ willingness to prostitute kinswomen may in part be due to a kinship system that readily substitutes one member of a kin group for another, so that in the native society a man’s brother and nephews might legitimately have sexual relations with his wife; adultery was defined as relations with someone of another group.[xvii] Among the Salish the principle of equivalence of kinsmen was not carried to this extent, and adultery appears to have been defined about the same as among Europeans.


Both the pre-missionary cult and Christianity differed from the native religion in the kind of participation they offered the members of a native community. Native religion was centred around the individual. Basic to it was the notion that the individual human being can exert an influence on his environment through his possessing the ability to manipulate several sorts of supernatural entities or the knowledge of magical spells and other formulae which tapped the power inherent in natural phenomena. The expert in handling supernatural entities, spirits, souls, etc., was the shaman; the expert with spells and other ritual acts was the ritualist. Basic also was the notion that at certain times during his life the individual is particularly susceptible to the influence of the super natural, at which time he must receive care by one of these experts in dealing with it. Most, perhaps all, activities that might be called religious rites or ceremonies had individuals as foci. They were either purely demonstrations of an individual’s control of supernatural entities, as in spirit dancing, or were the occasions for treatment of an individual in danger by another individual with supernatural power, as when a shaman treated a sick person or a ritualist treated a person at a life crisis. Dozens of people might participate in such a ceremony but as participant-spectators, helping the chief participant, he hoped, through their own power or simply their good will; but the mere presence of a man in such an audience did not mean that he was helping, for he might even be working against the chief participant with his own power. Several hundred people might be present at a session of spirit dancing and dozens of persons might dance, but individually, one at a time, with the others only helping to provide the proper musical and emotional background. Indirectly each person’s demonstration of power or safe passage through a crisis helped the group, since it eliminated potential dangers to others. But the only occasions that I know of when a ritual act was directly for the benefit of a group were the first-salmon rite and the purification of a house and all its members after a death. But the purification may have had the deceased individual still in an important role, and the first-salmon rite, elsewhere often a tribal affair, among the Straits people was closely associated with the individually owned reef net locations where the first salmon were taken. Both the purification of mourners and the first-salmon rite were conducted by persons who did so because they possessed the knowledge of the ritual words and acts, that is, ritualists rather than shamans.

Pre-missionary Christian influences brought a rite with another sort of group participation. Information about this rite is poor (I shall give the evidence elsewhere), but accounts given by informants from several tribes suggest that it rather closely paralleled the “Christianized Prophet Dance” of the Plateau identified by Spier,[xviii] and that it flourished at about the same time, probably during the 1830’s. Its important features were community participation in prayer to a Supreme Being, identified by some with the Transformer of aboriginal mythology, and in a circular dance during which persons could choose marriage partners and be immediately married. The rite was performed under the direction of a leader, who may also have prophesied changes in the world. According to one account, the rite came from Eastern Washington via the Skagit River, was spread to a number of tribes from Southern Puget Sound to Georgia Strait, and then was rejected when it was demonstrated that lower-class men could obtain upper-class wives through it. This account may be correct; the freedom of choice given by the rite certainly conflicted with the family-arranged marriages preferred by the upper class. However, it is likely that other new elements introduced by the rite had functions that the Coast Salish later found in Christianity. The rite may also have failed because Christianity came too closely behind it.

As Spier indicates, the Prophet Dance of the Plateau may have had an aboriginal basis that was later modified by knowledge of Christianity; the typical Plateau prophet was a man who had come back from the dead to prophesy a return of the Transformer and to urge his followers to institute moral reforms or new practices; after a knowledge of Christianity reached the Plateau, the prophets incorporated Christian practices into their teachings. One of the non-Christian elements of the Plateau Prophet Dance was the circle marriage dance. The importance of the circle marriage dance in the Coast Salish complex seems sufficient to identify it as the Plateau Prophet Dance, whether it came to the Coast by way of the Skagit, the Fraser, or even the Columbia. The circle marriage dance was clearly an element that was not native to the Coast and that could not be integrated into Coast culture.

The character of the prophet, identified by Spier as aboriginal in the Plateau, may also have been aboriginal on the Coast, but not enough on the leadership of the Coast Prophet Dance is available. The only leader identified among the Straits tribes was the one at Lummi, a man who was later known as David Crockett and who became a leader in the Catholic Church. Several stories exist of men who died and returned from the dead; some of these stories may have been associated with the leaders of the Prophet Dance, but at least one is of a much more recent time. The founder of the later Shaker Church was, of course, a successor of the same line.

Probably the most significant features of the Prophet Dance were the community participation and the concept of a Supreme Being. As I have indicated, it was a rare occasion in pre-contact times when all persons present dealt with the supernatural jointly for the common good. On those few occasions when this might have occurred, the chief participant was probably a ritualist using his knowledge to tap the power inherent in natural phenomena. In the Prophet Dance the leader was a person who, like a spirit dancer or shaman, claimed to have established a relationship with a specific supernatural being. But unlike the ordinary possessor of a guardian spirit, he claimed for this being enormous power, perhaps identifying him with a Creator or Transformer of myth age, and he claimed that others could approach him, too, for the common good. I suspect that this concept was startlingly new. Though the Prophet Dance was probably short-lived, it must have prepared the way for the missionaries who followed.

Collins[xix] and Duff[xx] describe prophets among the Upper Skagit and the Upper Stab. Duff regards the Upper Stab prophets as probably Christian-influenced; Coffins says the Upper Skagit prophets had actually had first-hand contact with missionaries elsewhere and had returned to work out the amalgam. Neither mentions the circle marriage dance as a part of the complex, so these occurrences may not have been of the same source or contemporary with the Straits complex, though they are certainly of the same genus. Collins also points out how the leaders of these cults were able to use them to institute a stronger sort of authority than had hitherto existed in native society. I believe that this was equally true of the leader at Lummi. Like others elsewhere, this man evidently derived authority first from his leadership in a cult and later from his position as a strong convert to the new church; his activities extended over two periods in native history.

THE LUMMI – Up to 1852.

According to their traditions, the Lummi are the descendants of people who once lived only in the San Juan Islands. One tradition tells that the First Man dropped from the sky at the north-eastern end of San Juan Island and became the ancestor of the Klalakamish people.[xxi] Another tells that when the Klalakamish had become nearly extinct, the last man of them gave his house to a man that owned a house that stood on Flat Point on Lopez Island; the latter, now having two houses but not enough space to line them up, put the new one at a right angle to the old one to make an L-shaped structure. This L-shaped house was called xw láləməs (facing each other), and from this name comes the name xw  lə’mi  (Lummi). This house was later moved to Gooseberry Point on what is now the reservation.[xxii] A third tradition tells how a man of the Swallah (swɛ’? ləx) people on East Sound on Orcas Island, to avenge the murder of his brother, sought and obtained a spirit power that enabled him to kill all but a few of the Skalakhan (sk’əlɛ’xən) tribe, who lived at the mouths of the Nooksack River. The surviving Skalakhan gave to the hero and his descendants the river to use for a salmon-weir, where upon the people of the islands established themselves on what is now the Lummi Reservation. This last is by far the best known of these traditions. It has been published at least three times,[xxiii] and I have obtained several versions. Curtis, on the basis of genealogies, calculates that the event took place about 1725. I am less certain of the date, but I believe that the fact that the Lummi have come from the islands to the Mainland is supported by other bits of evidence. Place-names on the Mainland shore, for example, frequently have forms that are of some other Salish language, while in the islands they are clearly of the Straits language.

Whatever the truth of the traditions, other data given by informants on former land use, knowledge of its resources, and transmission of inherited rights, all indicate that before white settlement Lummi territory consisted of about half the San Juan Islands and a few miles of Mainland shore to the east. Informants from other tribes define it about as Lummi informants do. In the islands, Lummi territory included all of Orcas and the smaller islands around it, Shaw, the north-western half of Lopez, and the north-eastern half of San Juan Island. On the Mainland it included the shore from Point Whitehorn to Chuckanut Bay and extended inland as far as Lake Terrell and the site of the present Ferndale. The immediate salt-water neighbours of the Lummi were other Straits-speaking tribes—the Semiahmoo to the north, the Samish to the south, and the Saanich and Songish to the west. Their inland neighbours were the linguistically isolated Nooksack in the Nooksack Valley above Ferndale and the Puget Sound-speaking Nuwhaha in the Samish Valley. On Lake Whatcom were the “Lake People,” a mixed Nooksack Nuwhaha group. The Lummi seem to have shared the shore from Whatcom Creek to Chuckanut Bay with the Nuwhaha, and possibly with the Nooksack as well. Straits, Nooksack, and Puget Sound are mutually unintelligible Salish languages.

Originally the principal villages in the islands were on the north western end of San Juan Island, on West Sound and East Sound on Orcas Island, and on the north-western end of Lopez Island. The principal villages established on the Mainland were at Gooseberry Point and at The Portage of what is now the reservation. The people of San Juan were called Klalakamish (ʎəlɛ’qəməš); those of West Sound, Alaleng (ɛ’lɛ?ləñ) people; those of East Sound, Swallah (swɛ’?ləx) people. The last two names are evidently primarily place-names; the last is the name for Mount Constitution. These names applied perhaps to clusters of villages. I have recorded no similar name for the people of North western Lopez; it may be that the term “Lummi” was originally used for these people only, co-ordinate with Klalakamish, etc. And then perhaps when this group moved to the Mainland the name went with them, and as other groups joined them and the islands became depopulated, the meaning was enlarged to include all. On the other hand, the recent use of the term “Lummi” to include the people of the whole territory just outlined may still be an early usage.

By the middle of the last century the islands were becoming depopulated; that is, winter villages were disappearing, though they were still being used seasonally by people from the Mainland. Some of the island villages had been wiped out, or nearly so, by the first smallpox epidemic in the 1780’s. Raids from the north undoubtedly also struck the island villages, possibly more often than those on the Mainland. By 1850 the most important villages were those at Gooseberry Point and The Portage on the Mainland. The important leaders of the 1850’s were from these villages and, so far as I know, from no others.

 About 1850 the leaders of the Lummi were Chowitsut (čáwicut) and his brother George Celic (c’ili’kw), Washington (xəčéusəm), Jefferson (xwláləqw), Bainbridge (sie’nɛltxw), David Crockett (xwaile’nəxw), and a few others. Perhaps all had plank houses at Gooseberry Point, where there was in addition a stockade that seems to have belonged to the group. But Chowitsut also had a large “potlatch house” at The Portage, where there were some other smaller houses. At these two villages the Lummi passed the winter. In the spring they ordinarily left the Mainland to go out into the islands to dig camas, troll for spring salmon, fish for halibut, dig clams, and hunt deer. During this season they might move about as individual families or in small groups. Then by July the owners of reef-net locations would have chosen their crews, made their nets, and set up their gears in their places. Celic, Bainbridge, and several others had locations off Village Point on Lummi Island, where several gears could be set in a row; Washington and Jefferson had locations off Fisherman’s Bay on Lopez Island. A few others had locations off Shaw or Orcas; some may have had locations on the reef at Point Roberts. Some had none and perhaps could not easily get a position on another’s gear. After a month or two of reef-netting, most of the Lummi returned to the Mainland to use a weir that was built on the main mouth of the Nooksack River, then the west mouth, the present Lummi or Red River, just below its forks. According to one informant, the weir was built under the direction of Washington and his brothers, but the fish were evidently communally taken and shared. Three plank houses stood by the weir—one owned by Washington and his brothers, one by Chowitsut, and another smaller one, the owner of which is for gotten. Here the whole tribe caught and smoked the fall run of salmon.

 From here they returned to their winter quarters on the salt water for the winter spirit dance season. Potlatches, when they were given, came usually in the fall. Chowitsut was evidently the wealthiest of the Lummi leaders and the chief sponsor of a series of potlatches.


The ten years from 1852 to 1862 were probably the most significant ones in Lummi history. During this decade white settlement remade the native economy, white government imposed new authority to replace in part the older system of controls, and white religion made a headlong, though not wholly successful, attack on native religion and indirectly on the whole structure of native society.


In 1852 two white men established a mill at the falls just above the mouth of Whatcom Creek. This became the nucleus of the present city of Bellingham. Shortly afterwards coal was discovered on Bellingham Bay and mines were established. To protect themselves against possible attack from northern Indians, the settlers built a stockade in the winter of 1855—56. The following year the U.S. Army established Fort Bellingham and stationed a company of troops there.

The year that brought the first whites to Bellingham Bay also brought an epidemic of smallpox among the Lummi.[xxiv]  At the same time, danger of raids from the north was mounting, and their consequences were worse for the natives than for the whites. Thus weakened by disease and attacks, some must have seen the white settlement as offering protection, and a few families moved across the bay to establish settlements at the mouth of Squalicum Creek and one or two other places near the mines.

The prospects of trade and of jobs must have been as inviting as the prospect of protection. For a quarter of a century before this the Lummi had been trading with the Hudson’s Bay Company, exchanging furs and possibly potatoes for metal tools, firearms, blankets, and clothing. This trade was evidently continued with the whites on Bellingham Bay. The agent Fitzhugh reported in 1857 that the Lummi were disposing of a great many surplus potatoes to the whites, by this means getting the greater part of their clothing.[xxv] Work at the coal mines attracted members of other tribes as well as Lummi. The settlement of Sehome was named after a Klallam who settled among the Samish and gave his daughter in marriage to Fitzhugh, who was operating the coal mine there.

In 1858 the Lummi were enabled to sell more than potatoes to the whites, with dire consequences. The agent reported:

“The discovery of gold on Fraser and Thompson rivers has caused an immense concourse of people to gather at this station [Bellingham Bay], it being the starting point to the mines. The Indians have sold all their canoes, being tempted by the large prices, and are now destitute of the means of fishing. The money they have received is worse than nothing; it has been the means of their getting quantities of rum.[xxvi]

 The agent was unable to control this trade and predicted the speedy extinction of the natives. But the boom did not last, and the Lummi became again a somewhat prosperous though certainly changed people.


One of the major agencies of change was the white government. In 1855 the territorial governor met at Point Ellice (Mukilteo) with representatives from most of the tribes north of Seattle and persuaded the Lummi “chief” and his “sub-chiefs” to sign away all but the peninsula upon which their villages stood. From 1857 on they were under the supervision of an Indian Agent, who himself stood on the bottom rung of a bureaucratic ladder which led to Washington, D.C.

Thirteen important Lummis signed the Treaty of 1855. At their head was Chowitsut, whom the whites credited with control over all the tribes between the Swinomish and the border. According to the treaty, the island made by the mouths of the Nooksack River was to be the Lummi Reservation. Despite the fact that no Samish, Semiahmoo, or Nooksack names appear on the treaty, these tribes were to occupy the reservation with the Lummi. This arrangement did not work out well. Members of other tribes came for the annuity goods which the Government passed out yearly at Lummi, but it is doubtful if many tried to settle on the reservation. Those who did became discouraged at the Government’s negligence in surveying the reservation and giving out individual allotments, and most of them eventually drifted away. Also, they were probably unwilling to settle on the land of another tribe.[xxvii]  Most of the Semiahmoo had settled just north of the border by the 1860’s. The Samish remained on Samish Island till about 1875, when they moved to Guemes Island. The Nooksack, with few exceptions, remained in the upper valley. Some of the Nuwhaha, judging by early agents’ reports, were to settle at Lummi, but they did not do so. A few Lummis also drifted back into the islands.

According to the treaty the Government was to provide the signatory tribes with: (1) Twenty instalments of $150,000, to be expended under the direction of the President; (2) twenty instalments, for agricultural schools and teachers; (3) twenty instalments, for a smithy and carpenter shop and tools; (4) twenty instalments, for blacksmith, carpenter, farmer and physician.[xxviii] 

The Government established an agency at Tulalip, with sub-agencies at the other reservations, including Lummi. It supported a boarding school established at Tulalip by Father Chirouse, and for a time a day school at Lummi. The smithy and carpenter shop and much later the physician were at Tulalip, but at Lummi there was a resident farmer, sometimes in addition to, sometimes equivalent to, the sub-agent.

Agents and sub-agents came and went, some with great rapidity. A few left the Indian service to settle down with Indian wives. Probably the most influential representative of the Government (not considering Father Chirouse as such) was C. C. Finkbonner, who came as resident farmer in 1862, and stayed as sub-agent at least until 1870, outlasting several administrations and equally praised by each. Finkbonner married a Lummi woman and has descendants on the reservation to-day.

The annuity goods promised by the treaty were handed out annually, with perhaps a year or two skipped and a few double payments, from 1861 to 1879.[xxix] The Government passed the payment out in the spring of the year at a clearing on what was then the east bank of the main mouth of the river. The Lummi remember it to have consisted of axes, hoes, mattocks, shovels, shoes, flour, sugar, coffee, rice, beans, and the like. These goods were probably received by a few members of the tribes said to be “subordinate” to the Lummi.

Because of changes in the course of the river and of the fear of white encroachment, the northern boundary of the reservation was revised in 1878 to correspond with the section lines rather than less permanent natural features. But the Government did not give out allotments of land to individuals until 1884. To judge from agents’ reports and from statements of informants, this move was earnestly desired by many Lummi. It was not, as has often been suggested,[xxx] simply the expression of a naive view on the Government’s side that private property would be an inducement to industry and self-support. Some saw it as applied anthropology, a blow for the conjugal family against tribal organization.


Like other tribes in the area, the Lummi experienced the passing of a Christianized Prophet Dance evidently just before the first direct contact with Christianity. Informants’ statements suggest that this dance was later interpreted as an earlier, mistaken form of Christianity. The Lummis’ first direct contact with the religion of the whites came probably around 1840, when the Catholic missionaries Demers and Blanchet preached at Nisqually, Whidbey Island, and on the Fraser. Their first steady contact could only have come after Father E. C. Chirouse, O.M.I., founded his mission at Tulalip in 1857.[xxxi] Even so, the influence of Catholicism must have been very strong in the late 1850’s, and a major factor in the Lummis’ relations with the whites. In 1859 David Crockett, who had been a leader in the prophet cult and was now a Catholic, became the new “chief,” more through his piety than through inherited privilege or wealth.

Father Chirouse had probably a stronger influence upon the Lummi, and upon all the northern sound tribes, than any other white man. He worked tirelessly for twenty-one years, preaching, teaching, building, not only in Washington, but in British Columbia as well. From 1857 to 1878 his was the only school for Indian children in the whole area. For part of this time he was also sub-agent for the Tulalip agency. He was praised by whites in and out of the Government, Catholic and non-Catholic.

Father Chirouse’s job was to convert the natives to Christianity and to Christian ways of life. This meant, above all, replacing native religious concepts with those of Christianity. To do this he had to attack spirit singing and shamanism. It also meant replacing native observances at the life crises with the sacraments of the church. Occasions upon which he administered the sacraments—baptism, marriage, death—were the very occasions which were so significant in native life for the exchange of wealth, the transmission of privilege, and the establishment of the mutual obligations which made native society function. Here he was striking close to the roots of native society itself. Moreover, he attacked certain practices which he saw as inimical to Christianity, but which provided to the native eye symbols of inherited status or acquired power —slavery, head-flattening, gambling. And finally, he attacked practices introduced by the whites themselves—drinking and prostitution. In most of this he had the close co-operation of the representatives of the Government.

In spite of the Church’s opposition to so much of what was basic to native culture, in a short time the majority of all of the salt-water tribes had apparently accepted the Catholic faith. In 1861 Father Chirouse built the chapel of St. Joachim on the west bank of the new mouth of the river. When Father Chirouse himself was not present, David Crockett led the Lummi in services. Around the chapel there grew up a settlement which became the centre of the Lummi community, “Old Lummi Village.”



Besides sustaining a threefold attack from white culture, the Lummi suffered another calamity some time during the 1850’s;[xxxii] the river struck out to the south from a point above the weir-site, swung west to pass close to the higher ground, and then turned east again to form a new mouth on Bellingham Bay at Marietta. Part or all of this new main channel was probably a former slough which had been a secondary mouth; now the former main channel became a slow-moving slough and the old weir-site was of little value. One man, Bainbridge, moved his house planks from the old weir-site up to a place above the new course of the river and re-established himself. One reason for his choice of the place was its greater safety from attack, but perhaps primarily it was the fishing. With two sons-in-law from Fraser River he built a weir there for a time. The rest of the Lummi, however, appear to have given up weir fishing altogether.

It was on the west bank of the new main course of the river that Father Chirouse built his chapel in 1861. Here also the resident farmer Finkbonner built his establishment. Around the chapel the Lummis began to gather, some in great old-fashioned plank houses and some in single-family white-style houses which Finkbonner helped them build. They were encouraged to build here by both the priest and the farmer— and perhaps also by the still-present threat of raids from the north.

Old Lummi Village lasted as long as the river held its course. But beginning in 1888 the river shifted again. This time the main channel flowed straight south past Fish Point, by-passing Marietta. In the process of finding a new bed, the river washed out the greater part of Old Lummi Village. The church was moved to higher ground, and some of the buildings were moved to Fish Point, but by this time there was no longer the need for such a concentration.


In his report for 1865, Finkbonner recommended good houses as the best civilizing influence.[xxxiii] In 1867 he reported:

“The Indian town and agency home is built at the mouth of the main branch emptying into Bellingham Bay, and contains sixty good substantial board dwellings, with floors, windows, shingle roofs and chimneys. There is also one good church twenty-four by forty-five feet, besides a number of large Indian buildings made out of hewn and split cedar trees. Those are used by the old Indians, and for drying and smoking their salmon. All of these buildings have been put up with Indian labor, with my assistance.[xxxiv]

This settlement was not a town in the sense that the settlement of whites across the bay was; it was a later equivalent of the earlier winter village. The houses were occupied by some the year round, but by others only in the winter. Some of those who left seasonally went to the islands for fish and clams; others, persuaded by Finkbonner, established farms on the reservation and maintained native or white-style homes there as well. This pattern was established by 1871, when a visiting commissioner wrote:

“They dress as white men and live in wooden houses, which are scattered over the reservation on their small farms. They have also a village, where they chiefly congregate in the winter.[xxxv]

 Informants have described Old Lummi Village as it was perhaps in the late 1870’s. It consisted of two parts with the church between them. Below the church were two rows of white-style houses, parallel to the river. Above the church were four big native-style houses in a row parallel to the river. They were owned by (coming down-stream) Jim Eldridge, General Harrison, Timothy Yellacamut, and Henry Kwina. They faced the river and a road passed in front of them. Between the first two was a store which had belonged to a white couple named McDonough. McDonough came to the reservation in 1871; in 1879 he moved across to the far shore to found the town of Marietta,[xxxvi] and when he left he sold the building to General Harrison. In front of the store was the ferry-landing.

Kwina’s and Yellacamut’s big houses were all of hewn planks and had shed roofs. Kwina lived in a white-style house and used the big one only for feasts. Yellacamut usually had his house full. Harrison’s house had plank walls but a gabled shake roof. With him lived his wife, step son, and brother and family; others came to stay with him during fishing season.


Jim Eldridge’s house was the last big house to be lived in. By the middle or late 1880’s the others were no longer occupied. Mrs. Julius Charles, the wife of one of my principal informants, was the grand-niece of Jim Eldridge and grew up in this house. She described it as it was in her childhood.

It was not made of native materials; the walls were of milled lumber and the gabled roof of shakes. As in the other big houses, the floor was just the earth under it. The ridge-pole was held up by a post at each end with perhaps one in the centre. These and the posts along the walls were neither painted nor carved. Around the walls ran a bed-platform about the width of a modern double bed and at about the same height. Around the walls overhead ran a storage-shelf. Mats lined the walls, and mats could be used to construct partitions between family sections.

Seven families stayed in this house. Each had its own section and its own fire. Two square holes in the roof allowed the smoke to escape. Each family stacked its bedding on the bed-platform of its section, stored its fuel under the bed-platform, and stored its provisions, including bundles of dried fish, on the shelf above. The door was at the north end, and the corner to its left as you entered was Jim Eldridge’s section. This was the section appropriate to the owner of a house.

The family sections in such a house were designated as “first,” “second,” “third,” etc., beginning with the section at the left of the door as one looks in and continuing around in a clockwise direction. This house had three sections on each side and one at the end opposite the door. The family heads were, by section: (1) Jim Eldridge, (2) George swelɔ’k’wtən, (3) Polan či1xwa’mtqən with his nephew Mike xaikwi’məltxw, (4) Tom Squiqui, (5) Louie t’i’xwiə, (6) Frank Hillaire, (7) George tiɛliš. Each of these men had a wife, making a total of sixteen adults. Their children brought the house total up to forty or forty-five persons.

Jim Eldridge was the owner of the house. He built it, or at least he had got the materials for it and supervised its building. Jim worked for a white man in Bellingham named Edward Eldridge and possibly got the lumber from him. This was not the first house Jim had owned here, for behind this one was an older house, all of hewn planks, with a shed roof, by then converted into a chicken-house.

Jim also freighted groceries up the river to Ferndale and Lynden by canoe. This was fairly steady work and did not require any seasonal change in residence. He owned land down at Fish Point, but this was not far enough for a separate house until he grew old. Some of the other members of the house, however, left each spring for other quarters and returned in the fall. George tiɛliš, for example, had a farm on “Onion Bay,” just inside Sandy Point. He and his large family left the big house in the spring to go there to plant his crops. They returned after harvesttime and when fall fishing started on the river.

Jim Eldridge and George swelɔ’k’wtən were Nooksack, married to Lummi women. (Few other Nooksack settled on the Lummi Reservation.) Tom Squiqui was a Skagit married to a Lummi woman; Frank Hillaire had been raised at Saanich, but his father had been Lummi. The others—Polan, Mike, Louie, and George tiɛliš —were Lummi. At least the last three had non-Lummi wives. Of the sixteen adults, seven or eight (nine if Hillaire is included)—that is, about half—were Lummi. All of the member-families of this house were related. George sweb’kwtn was a relative of Jim Eldridge, and so was George tiei’, but the others were not related to him.

All the member-families, however, were related to Mrs. Eldridge, their heads addressed by either one of two native kinship terms signifying “older sibling” and “deceased parent’s sibling.”


A new pattern of life flourished on the Lummi Reservation during the existence of Old Lummi Village. It was a pattern that combined elements of the old life with elements of white culture, though not always elements shared by white neighbours. It was also a pattern which differed somewhat from that of other Indian groups. And it was one which did not outlive Old Lummi Village.

 The economic life of the Lummi in the 1880’s and ‘90’s differed from that of pre-white times both in content and in form. Its content included both old activities and new ones. The old hunting, fishing, and gathering survived, but in truncated or modified form. After the coming of fire arms there may have been some increase in individual hunting, but by this time game had certainly become more scarce and areas open to hunting fewer. Trapping, too, may have increased some during the earlier period of trade with the Hudson’s Bay Company, but certainly it declined during this period; the agent reported $2,000 worth of furs taken in 1867, only $130 worth in 1884.

The gathering of food persisted, especially clam-digging and berry picking. Native wild roots found substitutes in cultivated roots, but native wild berries found a market among whites. Cranberries especially sold well. The gathering of this period had a different emphasis and to some extent a different motive.

Fishing was still important, but not without changes. Old techniques were dropped, and new ones added, and by the 1880’s the motive was at least partly profit in sale to the whites. Families went out in late spring and summer to catch ling-cod, rock-fish, and halibut, and to troll for springs and silvers, using pre-white techniques but with white-made gear. Some of the halibut and salmon could be sold to whites. Reef-netting was very important until whites blocked the old locations with their traps in the mid-nineties. During the late eighties and early nineties, a large part of the reef-net catch was sold to whites.

The Lummi no longer built a weir but used other techniques in its place in fall fishing. They continued to use harpoons and gaff-hooks from the shore or from canoes. To these they added gill-nets and seines. The gill-net seems to have been a pre-white device which had fallen into disuse and was later revived with white materials. The Lummi in pre white times caught flounders with a kind of seine, but not salmon as they did later. Finkbonner’s report for 1867 lists a seine worth $400 as a part of the Government’s property at Lummi; this may have been the first.

Another item of increased importance was fish-oil, especially dogfish oil, which went to logging companies for skid grease. In pre-white times, dogfish had not been used much, but now fishermen caught them with set-lines of many hooks. The Lummi also continued to take waterfowl by both old and new methods. These were useful as food both for the hunters and for whites, to whom they were sold. The feathers were no longer twisted into yarn by the hunters’ wives, but they, too, could be sold to the whites.

Such items as these could be sold off the reservation or could be sold to McDonough in Old Lummi Village. An observer wrote of McDonough’s store in June, 1875:

“Indian trade at this store is considerable, it consists of fish oil, furs, hides, feathers, etc. The day we called the Indians brought in three hundred and twenty pounds of duck feathers which were caught in nets at the Portage, at Sandy Point and Birch Bay.[xxxvii]

 One of the chief aims of the Indian service seems to have been to replace hunting, fishing, and gathering wholly with agriculture. The agents recognized that some fishing and clam-digging was essential to self-support and made an effort to defend the Indians’ rights to fishing locations and beaches, but they tolerated these activities rather than encouraged them. To teach the Lummis farming, they stationed resident farmers on the reservation.

The first farmer established himself on the reservation in 1859, helped clear some land, and in that year 35 to 40 acres were brought under cultivation, mostly in potatoes.[xxxviii]  Their only tools at this time were hoes.

By 1867, 155 acres were under cultivation. The farmer had four ploughs and a team, and the Indians had a few head of horses and cattle and some pigs and chickens. Finkbonner describes the economy:

“These Indians cultivate their lands in severality, i.e., each head of family clears off and cultivates from one to four acres, the principal crop raised being potatoes. There is planted in all this spring about 150 acres in potatoes and other vegetables, and five acres in wheat. These Indians raise all the potatoes and vegetables they can eat, and sell all they can find a market for, which enables them to buy their necessaries, such as flour, clothing, groceries, etc., etc. It is very difficult for me to approximate at anything near the amount of labor performed on a reservation. I will, however, give some of the principal labor performed: First, in clearing off land and planting their crops in the spring, and hoeing during the summer; second, in gathering berries, which grow in great abundance and variety. Those which prove the most profitable are the cranberry. From June to October salmon commence running, during which time all the Indians are engaged in taking, curing, and salting for winter use. During the winter months they are engaged in various occupations; some are employed by the whites; some are engaged in the chase and hunt, and others are at work on the reservation, making canoes, and improvements around home. They cut and put up from twenty-five to thirty tons of hay every year. The Indians also make all the shingles used on the reservation, cut roads, make repairs and other improvements for their comfort, etc., etc.

“I would, most respectfully, before I close, urge the necessity upon the department to furnish more lumber and building materials for the reservation. They only have dwellings for about one-half the Indians here, and they all want buildings; it conduces more to civilize Indians than any other class of property the department can furnish them. They take great pride in good dwellings and they try to excel each other in this respect, and in furnishing their houses with the comforts of chairs, tables, cooking stoves, window curtains, beds, etc.[xxxix] 

He gives an evaluation of Indian property on the reservation, which includes $1,300 worth of live stock, about $7,000 worth in canoes, and $2,500 in firearms. The Lummi took, he says, about $2,000 worth of furs and skins (referred to above) and raised 10,000 bushels of potatoes, which were worth, at 75 cents a bushel, $7,500, 150 bushels of wheat worth $150, and $150 worth of other vegetables, and they cut 30 tons of hay.

During the 1870’s and ‘80’s, agricultural production increased, herds of live stock increased, and some farmers began selling poultry and dairy products. Agents estimated the subsistence of the Lummi in the early 1880’s as 75 per cent from “civilized pursuits “; 12½ per cent from hunting, fishing, and gathering; and 12½ per cent from Government rations. They were, on the whole, very optimistic; in 1884 the agent Buckley at Tulalip wrote:

“The Lummis number 275, are a proud people, being both industrious and intelligent; 75 of them have received their allotments in severality. They are a home-loving people, and give their attention entirely to farming. Many of them have excellent farms, good dwelling houses and barns, and every family has cattle, horses, hogs and poultry. They raise large quantities of grain, hay, and all the  garden vegetables, and during the last year have made 1,200 pounds of good butter.[xl] 

Agriculture was not the only “civilized pursuit” of the Lummi. Since the first white settlement, some had worked as labourers for the whites, especially as loggers. This sort of labour often separated young men from their families, but the distance was usually not far. Some time in the 1880’s another kind of labour came into being—hop-picking. This was a job that required travelling a greater distance, but it was a job the whole family could participate in. In this last respect it resembled some of the pre-white summer activities. The two-month outing to the hop-fields became the high point in the year’s activities for many families from all over Western Washington and British Columbia. The hop fields thus became an important point of contact between many Indian groups who otherwise saw little of one another. This activity was one of the causes which the agents cited as accounting for the decline of agriculture.

There was some survival of native crafts in this period. Men no longer made house-planks, but some occasionally made house-posts and some still made dugout canoes. Some women still made mats and baskets and even blankets. The agent gives figures for production in native industries for 1881 (this is for the whole Tulalip agency, so Lummi is only a fraction of the total): “4,985 yards matting, 322 canoes, 1,485 baskets, 40 Indian blankets.” He adds, as products of hunting, fishing, and gathering, “3,320 deer and other wild animals, 1,110,000 pounds of fish, and 2,638 bushels of berries.”[xli] Silversmithing, so important among some American tribes, was practised by one Lummi, Jack Pierre, who learned the craft from a Makah and in turn taught it to a Samish.

To summarize the yearly round of activities: people concentrated in fall and winter in the village; moved out in the spring to scattered farms to plant, or to camps in the islands to fish and to gather wild foods; fished intensively at reef-net locations in July and August and on the river in September and October, but with increasing numbers leaving for the hop-fields in August and September. A few engaged in year round farming (dairymen, for example) and year-round work off the reservation (loggers, sawyers, etc.).

  2. Chieftainship.

Whatever native government was, it was not a separate institution with a formal organization. Political influence depended upon social position. Social position came from the possession of incorporeal privileges and the wealth to display them. The wealth came from the possession of economic privileges or of supernatural power. Persons with rank of this kind were members of the upper class. I doubt if the pre-white “chief” was anything more than the ranking member of the upper class, probably the house-leader of the most influential household. I doubt if he had any formally recognized authority over anyone outside his own household or beyond his village. The last Lummi “chief” of the old sort was Chowitsut, who began as a shaman, accumulated wealth, got a wealth power, and gave a number of potlatches. What I have been able to learn about him suggests that his success was due far more to his personal abilities than to inherited position. But he had to have upper-class status in the first place, and he had to have the co-operation of the other upper-class men in order to potlatch. Because of his wealth and his leadership in potlatching, he was the biggest of the big men at Lummi.

“After the priest came,” said one informant, “the chief was the man who could say his prayers best.” David Crockett, who became chief about 1859, undoubtedly could say his prayers well; he led the Lummi in daily Catholic services morning and evening. But he was not otherwise a nobody. He had come from an upper-class family, and he had been the leader of the pre-Catholic cult. The majority of Lummis had accepted Catholicism as superior to the native system of beliefs, so perhaps it was perfectly natural for the man who controlled the new system best, the ranking Catholic, to become chief.

About 1865 Crockett chose Henry Kwina as sub-chief, and when Crockett died in 1874, Kwina succeeded him as chief. Kwina probably had more claim to upper-class status than Crockett, being the nephew of Chowitsut. Kwina was chief for a little over half a century, from 1874 until his death in 1926.

In pre-white times the functions of a chief were probably not much more than those of a house-head. His ranking position seems not to have been a permanent one, but one dependent on his continuing to display the proper qualities and one subject to constant reappraisal.

Under white rule the functions of the chief were quite different. White rule has been both direct and indirect; in so far as it has been indirect, the chieftainship has been one of its principal instruments. To the white government the chief was the leader of the whole tribe; his position was permanent, (short of impeachment) and he was partially responsible for the maintenance of law and order and for the administration of justice. The question of the existence in pre-white times of leaders of units larger than the village does not matter, since now the whole tribe was in fact a single village. But certainly, the support of the agent (if the chief had it) must have given the chieftainship more stability than dependence upon popular goodwill alone had given. The law and order the chief was supposed to keep and the justice he was supposed to administer were formerly perhaps his concern only within his own household. The majority of offences were punishable by the house hold, not by any larger community. The house-head may have been judge within his own house and represented his house in friendly dealings with others, but in the case of an offence from a member of another house he seems to have temporarily given over his leadership to a warrior. Now the chief was expected to represent all households in dealing with offences against any and to suppress the exercising of private justice.

To the Lummi their chief was their spokesman in their relations with the whites. Accounts of informants suggest that the chief was influential in getting allotments and in getting help from the agent. This patronage may have been analogous to that of the pre-white house-head. But it must have been difficult for members of other households, or after the break-up of the big households, of other family lines, to see the chief as equally responsible for and to all.

  1. Police.

As an aid to administration, the agent appointed Indian policemen—a captain at Tulalip and two privates on each reservation. Their duties were to arrest persons breaking both laws applicable to all persons in the territory and also agents’ rules applicable to Indians only— rules against drinking, spirit dancing, and shamanizing.

I do not know what the position of the Indian policeman was in the community but have some indication that he stood well with the local whites. Probably it was a position which gave enough prestige to satisfy native needs. One might expect a parallel to the pre-white warrior.

  1. Courts.

Using the chiefs as judges obviously had its disadvantages, and apparently to remedy the situation the agent established a court system. The agent wrote in 1889:

“Indian courts have been established with fair success on all the reservations belonging to the agency, but my main reliance has been upon the court located at agency headquarters (Tulalip), which is composed of the best material we have. This court tries all cases of importance, and generally disposes of the most of them satisfactorily to all concerned. It has greatly assisted me in maintaining order on the reservation and the farmers in charge of the Swinomish and Lummi reservations say the court system is a great improvement on the old plan of governing by chiefs and head men.[xlii]  

He adds that the courts would be unnecessary if whisky had been inaccessible to the Indians.

In his 1891 report he gives the three judges at Tulalip as George Archile, whom he calls well educated, David Teuse, and Dick Shoemaker. Their decisions, he says, were fair and were taken as final. The prosecutor was Jim Thomas, who was also captain of police. The convictions for criminal offences during the year 1891 were two adultery, two assault, thirty-nine intoxication, one neglect of sick, five perjury, one “Ta-man-no-us” (Indian conjuring), two wife-beating; and forty-eight civil cases were tried.[xliii] The sentences were, I believe, largely to labour on reservation roads; however, there was a jail at Lummi. The next year’s report mentions two judges at Lummi.[xliv]


There seems to have been little open resistance to conversion to Catholicism. It may be that the new religion was reinterpreted to accord with native beliefs. The native may have seen Catholic worship as another means of making contact with supernatural beings in order to acquire power. He may have seen Catholic taboos as parallel to those sometimes imposed by native guardian spirits. The participation of the “Indian priest” in the services he may have seen as an exercise of a personal possession like the inherited privileges or the secret ritual knowledge of native society.

It would be unfair to Catholicism, however, to suggest that it was a simple substitution; the Christian doctrine of sin and salvation and the God-given commandments surely had no close parallels. Native eschatology and native ethics were two separate systems—one bound up with concepts of disease and psychology, the other with the organization of society. The more integrated system presented by the priest must have seemed clearly superior to many philosophical natives. The priest him self, too, was without a close native parallel. The native ritualist’s functions at crisis rites were similar to those of the priest, but the range of the ritualist’s activities covered only a portion of that of the priest. Indians rightly identify the native shaman with the white doctor.

But perhaps the principal reason why Catholicism was accepted was the one so often given to account for a primitive people’s conversion: “The whites are more powerful; therefore, it must be that their religion is more powerful. Let us accept their religion and gain their power.” Trite as this is, it may be true. In the native system, success was usually interpreted as resulting from the possession of some sort of power. The whites were certainly more powerful, and the whites themselves argued that conversion was the first step in becoming like whites. It is even possible that the whites themselves were regarded as a source of power. An informant once remarked to me as we stood watching one of the more complex manifestations of white technology, “‘Ain’t no person, white man,’ the old people used to say. ‘White man sx’ɛ’ləm.” A sx’ɛ’ləm is a being with supernatural power.

The real conflict was probably between the exclusiveness of Catholicism and native practices. If participation in Catholic ritual was taken as an exercise of privilege and thus a source of prestige, then its exclusiveness may have rankled. Catholicism was accepted, but not to the exclusion of native practices. Performances of spirit dances and shamanistic curing continued in secret. It was secret at least on the reservation, of necessity since it was illegal; among those small groups living off the reservation, as among the Samish on Guemes Island, it was open and active.

Both Lummi and non-Lummi say the Lummi were “strict” in their Catholicism. Informants who know the old culture best say too strict. One said that at first there were no pews in the church, and the people had to kneel the whole time; another said that persons caught drinking or spirit dancing were whipped; the crowning insult, in the view of a third, was the fact that Father Chirouse not only confiscated the spirit-dancing costumes, but dressed up his schoolboys in them to put on a show for whites in order to raise money. How much of this is true is hard to say. The fact remains it was the Lummi who were strict; the priest was present only part of the time, and the resident farmers were probably not Catholics.

There were some who held out. One informant, whose family is entirely Catholic, said in their defence:

“Very few people didn’t care to listen to the priest. People were told “don’t make friends with them, they’re devils.” But at the same time those people they called devils know who made the world—they knew it was xɛ’ɛls [the Transformer].


The Indian Agents’ reports praise the school as a great civilizing influence—an example of what Wissler identified as a basic theme of our culture, faith in the efficacy of education. Trying to discount our cultural bias, I think the agents may have been partly right. Only a fraction of the Lummi went to school, but those who did must have been the most important channel for the dissemination of white culture. At the same time, however, the school-children themselves were systematically up rooted from the native culture, so that the familiar drama of the returned student who finds his home no longer a home may have been re-enacted many times.

Father Chirouse established his first school at Tulalip in 1857. He took students from all over the area of the Tulalip agency. In 1861 he had twenty boys and five girls.[xlv] Some were no doubt from Lummi; yet in 1867 Finkbonner reported that, of 125 Lummi children of school age, only ten boys were at the Tulalip school.[xlvi]

By 1880 there was a little day-school at Lummi with two teachers— one a half-breed and the other an Indian, both educated at Tulalip.[xlvii] But, according to informants, this school was moved back to Tulalip in 1884.

The language of instruction at Tulalip was, of course, English, but Father Chirouse also used the Puget Sound language for hymns and prayers, so that pupils from Lummi learned another Salish language as well. The report of agent Patrick Buckley for 1884 includes data on the Tulalip school. It is referred to as an agricultural and industrial boarding-school. There were at that time fifty-five boys and forty-five girls and eight employees—two men and six Sisters of Charity. The instruction for boys consisted of (1) school exercises—prayer, reading, writing, spelling, arithmetic, grammar, composition, history of the United States, book-keeping, and “familiar science“; and (2) manual labour— type-setting, attending to live stock, procuring and chopping fuel, gardening, fanning, and carpenter work. The instruction for girls consisted of the same school exercises and the following industries: General housework, washing, ironing, mending clothes, cutting out and making garments, gardening, dairy work, crocheting, braiding, embroidering, and different kinds of fancy work. The hours of school instruction were 8 to 11.30 a.m. and 1 to 8 p.m. each day. The methods of instruction, says the agent, were the same as those of the leading schools of the territory, and the teachers were in every way competent.

“The good done the Indian people by this school is incalculably great with the church, the school is the great civilizing element and those who have been brought up in both form the better class among our Indians. Their houses are neater and better furnished, their partners and their children are better dressed, their gardens better cultivated; they attend church regularly and are industrious and well behaved.

He also mentions the fact that Father Boulet, who had replaced Chirouse in the late 1870’s, was publishing—

“…a neat little monthly paper, dedicated to the advancement of Indian youth; it contains much good advice and pleasant reading and is valued by the Indians. It has quite a large circulation, and as at least one Indian in every family can read, it accomplishes much good.[xlviii]  

The statement that at least one Indian in every family could read is disproved by the statistics for the year. The population at Lummi in 1884 was 275; of these, 50 persons spoke English, 40 could read, 60 families were engaged in agriculture, etc.[xlix]  From this it appears that literacy was actually a little less than 15 per cent; about one in seven could read, certainly less than one in every conjugal family. The agent was, I suspect, overly optimistic. Yet the school must certainly have made a difference.

In 1892 a day-school reopened at Lummi, but the teacher was beset with difficulties, and the school did not receive much support from the people. I shall discuss possible reasons for this later.


In spite of attacks by white culture and the acceptance of much of white culture by the Lummi, some native institutions persisted in the life of the people of Old Lummi Village. In some cases, survival was without conflict. The private ownership of reef-net locations, for example, fitted quite well into white theory; the Lummi later lost their locations simply because they could not legally defend them.

Other native institutions survived under great pressure. Spirit dancing and shamanistic curing went on in secret, but not in Old Lummi Village. Mrs. Charles, who was raised in Jim Eldridge’s smoke-house there, said that she never saw spirit dancing when she was a child. This was in spite of the fact that several of the family-heads were, at that time or later, dancers, and one, Tom Squiqui, was a shaman. Some were exclusively “strong Catholics,” however; Mrs. John Brown said that her father, George tiɛli’š, did not believe in powers and would not accept one that he might have had.

Those who still danced or cured did so in secret at some place away from the village or off the reservation entirely. Those who were caught dancing on the reservation were arrested and fined or sentenced to labour on the road. Off the reservation less secrecy was required; the Bellingham Bay Mail even describes a shamanistic performance held at the “rancheree” at Sehome on August 1, 1874, with the help of some visiting Semiahmoo.

Slavery was, of course, forbidden and so was head-flattening, the older mark of status. And apparently there was some attempt to forget old class differences; Mrs. Brown says that her father never spoke of class differences, and that she did not know of such things until she married at Musqueam. At least one former slave married another, received an allotment, and raised a family. But Mrs. Brown’s present strong class-consciousness as well as her spirit dancing suggest that some basis for them was built up in childhood, despite her father’s professions. And none of the former slaves’ children married Lummis, a fact supporting the likelihood of the persistence of class-consciousness.

Gift-giving was also forbidden or at least discouraged by the priests and the agent, but it persisted even more openly than spirit dancing and shamanism. So far as I know, the Lummi have not had any Xɛ’nəq since Chowitsut’s time. A Xɛ’nəq was a “real potlatch” given by several persons “going company” and inviting members of other tribes. The Bellingham Bay Mail reported “potlatches” in October of 1873 and December of 1875, but these were, I suspect, the “paying off of funeral expenses” or some other obligation of single individuals. In contrast, the Samish had several full-dress Xɛ’nəq, the last in 1905.

The persistence of gift-giving was in practices which were a blend of the old culture and the new.


It was in the observance of the life crises that native practices came the nearest to blending with white practices. Here people recognized the necessity of the sacraments and the priest’s jurisdiction over them, but since the life crises were vital to the native culture, they endeavoured to observe them in the old way as well. The fact that the priest was not always present made this fairly easy.

So far as I know, recognition of birth and of puberty received little, if anything, from white culture, and native practices tended to dwindle. Catholic baptism came sooner after birth than did any naming ceremony in the old culture, where boys and girls were often simply called “boy” and “girl” until old enough to receive inherited names. Now they received Christian names first and native names later.

The first converts received Christian names only, no surnames. A few of the first generation later used native names as surnames. Some received full European names from the whites, either for famous persons such as George Washington or for the settlers they worked for, like Jim Eldridge, who worked for the early settler Edward Eldridge. In some cases, English nicknames stuck. But the majority of the first generation seem to have done without European surnames, and most of their children seem to have used their fathers’ given names as surnames. In most cases the original given name became the surname of the third and following generations, but some tendency to repeat the first step in the process remains. Frank Hillaire’s son by his first wife calls himself Edward Frank, but his children by his second wife are all Hillaires. The result of this practice is a population bearing names which to the outsider seem at first hopelessly indistinguishable—Joe Bill, Bill Joe, George Charles, Charles George, and even Joe Joe and George George, the last being called Double George. Most of the native names used as surnames appear to have been dropped, and some of the original baptismal names, being French, became unintelligible to English-speaking whites and therefore impractical; I did not recognize ušɛ’n as “Eugene” or pɛ’tləs as “Patrice.”

In addition to English given names and surnames, nearly everyone received a native name. This required some expense, since the name had to be given in the presence of others, who were paid to witness the event. Later in life if a man had an unused name in his genealogy and could afford it, he might take it, too. So far as I know, there has never been any attempt to use English names as inherited privileges; the two systems have existed simultaneously but separately. To identify a person completely requires getting his English given name, surname, and possibly nickname, and his native inherited name or names, and possibly native nickname, since he may have been known by only one or two of these by different people at different places or times. While in native theory the inherited name, or perhaps the last inherited name used, was the person’s real name, the English given name appears to be the most useful for any cataloguing purposes, since it usually endured the whole lifetime.

A far greater blending of the old and the new was to be found in marriage and marriage relations and in practices associated with death. To judge from several accounts, among the better off at least, a marriage was arranged by the families of the couple. The family of the groom paid a bride-price in money and perhaps made a gift of food besides, which the family of the bride used for a feast. When this had been done, the priest was invited to unite the couple in a Catholic wedding. After the wedding the bride’s family gave a feast, killing stock for the meal and putting down a temporary floor in the smoke-house and hiring a fiddler and caller for a square dance. The parents of the couple called each other sk’wə’lwəs (co-parents-in-law), and engaged in later exchanges of food and wealth. For example, a man might bring a canoe-load of boxes of hard-tack or biscuits, a favourite article, to his son-in-law and the latter’s father, at which time they in turn were obliged not only to pay for the food, but also to pay each of the men who helped to bring it. This kind of exchange perhaps received more emphasis when the marriage was between a Lummi and a non-Lummi. Occasionally it led to open rivalry between co-parents-in-law. This type of marriage was purely native in function for the families of the couple. From the native point of view the Catholic wedding service could have been merely a substitute for the earlier display of an inherited privilege on the occasion when the couple were brought together before representatives of the two families. The other foreign elements—the money, the slaughtered beef, the hard-tack—were only borrowed means to native ends. On the other hand, the Catholic wedding may well have been the more significant even for many of the young couples themselves, trained as they had been in the Catholic school, since some of these marriages lasted for life, a permanency that might not have been attained in pre-white times.

A death meant considerable expense for the bereaved’s family, if they could afford it. Burial was the rule, and a Catholic funeral service was required. But before the funeral the family had to hire two persons of the same sex as the deceased to bathe and dress the body, two more to keep a wake, two men to make a coffin, two to make the outer cover for it, two to dig the grave, and six to act as pallbearers. The bathing of the corpse and the making of the coffin were professional tasks in pre-white times when the dead were put into raised canoes or grave boxes, and those who performed the tasks did so because of their knowledge of the proper spells and ritual acts. The spells were still used at this time, and even though burial in the ground was a recent practice, there were spells for grave-digging, too. After the funeral the family of the deceased had to give a feast, at which they paid their “funeral debts “; that is, paid those who had performed the services just listed. At the same time, or later, they might display a memento or sing the spirit song of the deceased and pay those who witnessed. The payment of funeral debts was perhaps the public repayment of obligations that most nearly reached the proportions of the earlier potlatch, which had this as only one of several functions.


In spite of their earlier praise of the Lummi as successful farmers and optimism about their progress toward civilization, by 1890 the agents’ reports were beginning to express some dissatisfaction with them. In 1889 the Lummi were merely not “holding their own “;[l] by 1891 the statistics themselves show a decline in agricultural production—350 acres cultivated as compared with 500 in 1884, 50 bushels of wheat and 60 of oats as compared with 450 and 2,000 bushels in 1884, 450 cattle as compared with 600 head, and so on.[li] Figures for 1897, however, show a gain in production, but since they also show a gain in population, production per capita may not have improved. The agents’ reports for the early 1890’s also express a dissatisfaction with the Lummi over their day-school; the Lummi were uncooperative and failed to support the school. The agents seem to be expressing a feeling that the Lummi were undergoing a general cultural decline, or at least were losing interest in the things which had made the agents optimistic a decade or two earlier. There are several possible reasons for this decline; the first three of the following were suggested by the agents themselves:

(1) The isolation of the Lummi allowed them to slip out of the control of the agency.

(2) The opposition of the old people undermined the agency’s work.

(3) The attraction of other pursuits, particularly hop-picking, took people away from the reservations during the season when they should have been farming.

The following quotations will illustrate some of these views:

“One of the largest and naturally most fertile of the five reservations is the Lummi, but, being more remote and less accessible from the agency than are the other, the same discipline cannot easily be maintained with these Indians—exposed to the evil influence of whites and Canadian Indians—as with those on other reservations. They are more independent and show less inclination to cultivate their land than do the Indians of most of the reserves, though not a few of the younger men have industriously cultivated their several holdings and have comfortable farm-homes. For the most part, however, they engage in fishing, sealing and logging.[lii]

And speaking of all Puget Sound Indians, not just the Lummi:

“The Indians, as a rule, are not systematic farmers. Farming is with them the incident and not the business of everyday life. Some of them, the more thrifty and industrious, have well-cultivated farms and comfortable houses, and are anxious to have their children educated. They generally live like white people. Those, however, are the exception. A large majority spend most of their time in their canoes, fishing, especially during the salmon season. In the summer they are absent most of the time picking berries. In early fall, with few exceptions, all, little and big, young and old, go to the hop fields, where they meet old friends from all over the sound and east of the mountains. Here they drink, gamble, and, as they say, have a good time generally. This annual pilgrimage to the hop fields is very demoralizing and positively injurious; but as it has been their custom for many years, and always permitted by former agents, I did not feel justified in interfering with what they seem to regard as one of their vested rights. From close observation I am satisfied that the greatest obstacle to progress and to the advancement of the young Indian is the old Indian. He still clings to his old superstitions and cherishes secretly the old traditions and teaching of his savage ancestors. He is opposed to sending his children to school; creates all the dissatisfaction and distrust that he can secretly foment in the child’s mind; interferes with the agency physician in the treatment of patients and does whatever he can in the two months of vacation to neutralize the good effect of the ten months’ school session. With his disappearance from the scene of action, a more rapid and marked advance will take place among the younger Indians.[liii]  

(4) To the attraction of hop-picking I would add the attraction of reef-netting for sockeye. This activity became a source of cash as well as food about 1891, when the canneries began buying fish. And after the Lummi lost their locations, some went to work for the canneries.

(5) A log-jam caused by a boom at the mouth of the Nooksack River made it necessary for people to go several miles up-stream before they could cross to go to market. This was not only a deterrent to intercourse between Lummi and the neighbouring white communities, but also resulted eventually in the destruction of Old Lummi Village.

(6) A further factor in the decline in agricultural production may have been in the difficulties that were arising over the inheritance of allotments. These difficulties are mentioned in the reports of 1890 and 1891. Much later, in 1914, the agent Buchanan wrote that cases had been accumulating for years, and that land had lain idle because its ownership could not be determined.[liv]  

(7) A final factor in the decline of agriculture and what was perhaps a general cultural decline may have lain in the conflict that had arisen between the two controlling forces, church and state, and the effect this conifict must have had upon the Lummi. Whatever the truth of the following statement, it certainly indicates that there was such a conflict; this is from the school-teacher’s report of 1902:

“A serious obstacle to the intellectual progress is, I fear, the presence of the priest [Father Boulet] under whose teachings they [the Lummi] are. He is opposed to Government schools in general and does what he can to influence the Indians against them and to prevent their patronizing such schools.[lv]  

This conflict must surely have had an effect upon the Lummi. Since the first settlement, no doubt their newly acquired values were under constant attack from what the agent Buchanan later called the “vicious and meddlesome white man” as well as from the most conservative of their own group. Now it appeared that the two chief white exponents of the new values—the agent and the priest—themselves disagreed. Why then, especially in the face of other difficulties, should one be a sober, pious, industrious, literate farmer?

To make an even more generalized suggestion, it may be that the Lummi were, or at least appeared to be, sober, pious, and industrious in the 1870’s and ‘80’s because a new cultural pattern had developed which permitted it, but that this cultural pattern was one which could not survive in the face of changes going on around it.

Probably the worst blows the Lummi have suffered since the 1850’s were the effects of the log-jam at the mouth of the river and of the building of the fish-traps at Point Roberts and Village Point, Lummi Island. I have already indicated the damage done by the log-jam. The effect of the traps was to block all the principal reef-net locations so as to make them difficult or impossible to use. In 1895 the Government filed suit for the Indians against the companies concerned. The agent reported the decision, which was reached two years later:

“The suits instituted by direction of the honorable Attorney-General in the interest of these Indians, one for the obstruction of the Nooksack River for navigation purposes by the Fairhaven Lumber [Land?] Company, the other against the Alaska Packing Company [Alaska Packers Association?] for obstruction of the fishing privileges of Indians, have both been decided against the Indians in the United States district court for Washington. These cases are still pending an appeal to the United States circuit court. Meanwhile the navigation of the Nooksack River is practically closed by an immense accumulation of driftwood caused by the obstructions placed near the mouth of the river by the Fairhaven Lumber Company, the current of the river having been deflected from the east to the west bank thereof, expending its full force against and overflowing the lowlands of the Lummi Reservation upon which is located the government day school building and the Indian village; and the Alaska Packing Company and other cannery companies have practically appropriated all the best fishing grounds at Point Roberts and Village Point, where the Lummi Indians have been in the habit of fishing from time immemorial. The State legislature, at its last session, passed an act imposing a tax upon all persons fishing with nets in its waters, and at the same time prohibiting persons using nets from fishing within 240 feet of any fish trap. The average Indian regards the decisions of the courts and the recent legislation of the State as especially directed against him, and no amount of explanation on my part is sufficient to convince him to the contrary.[lvi]  

SINCE 1900

During the years before the First World War the Lummi saw the school system pass completely out of the hands of the church (1901). The agency finally straightened out the tangled lines of heirship of a number of unused allotments, though more accumulated. Some Lummi found themselves able to lease their lands, and some were even declared competent to sell if they chose to. A couple of allotments were sold because of a lack of agreement among the heirs. Also, some of the Lummis made successful stands against the Fish and Game Commission’s attempt to apply its rules to the reservation.

There also began an open conflict of religions. About 1910 the Shakers first made converts in the area; these were the followers of John Slocum, a Puget Sound prophet whose immediate disciples synthesized native and Christian practices.[lvii]  In 1912 spirit dancing took a first step toward becoming legal.

From 1912 to 1917 the Lummi held an annual “potlatch,” a picnic and clambake. It was to commemorate the victory of the Lummi over the Yukulta at Gooseberry Point, in, according to William McCluskey’s calculations, 1820, and presumably to make money on the crowds of whites who came from Bellingham to see the show. For the picnic some old dances and songs were revived and, in some cases, revised. Some features perhaps not originally Lummi, such as the sxw’áixwei mask and dance, were added. Between the wars the Lummi Reservation saw a considerable increase in population, from 472 in 1921 to 632 in 1932. In 1930 a dyke was completed around most of the “flats,” the delta land which is the best soil on the reservation. In the early 1930’s State schools became open to Lummi children. And during the 1930’s the Lummi rejected, while the Swinomish and Tulalip people accepted, the Indian Reorganization Act.

After the river washed away Old Lummi Village in the 1890’s, some of the people moved their buildings down to Fish Point. This did not last as a settlement, however, and for some years there was no village on the river. Then, I believe in the 1930’s, fishermen began building shacks on the banks of the new river-course, now off the reservation. In time a strip of land on each side was bought as tribal property, some improvements were made, and this is the present “River Village.”


In 1914 Dr. Charles Buchanan, the agent at Tulalip, wrote:

“So far as is generally known the old Indian dances are obsolete. They are not generally seen so far as any public knowledge of them, at least, is concerned. They are of interest only as steps in the past history and evolution of the race (in which sense they may be considered, in a certain sense, as historic records). The children in the school are taught to regard these ancient dancing practices as stages and incidents of a barbarism that is past, though they are stages experienced by all primitive and uncivilized peoples. They are therefore indicative of lack of progress and lack of desire for progress and improvement. They are never seriously given or seriously seen any more. There has grown up at Tulalip a local Indian holiday, the anniversary of the treaty, January 22nd, which we term Treaty Day and, in a sense, Old Folks Day. That day is considered a page out of the history of the past, brought into the present for purposes of comparison and of historical comparison. Indian history is not written; therefore, it can only be exemplified by oral tradition or by dramatization in the form of what is now popularly given under the designation of pageantry. In this spirit and with this in view, we often reproduce at Tulalip many of the o1d Indian customs, practices, games, etc., on Treaty Day as a portion of its pageantry, but in no more serious sense than this.[lviii] 58

The old dances were, of course, not obsolete, but, as was probably generally known, had merely gone underground because of the Government’s policy of suppression. According to several Lummi informants, Buchanan freed the power songs on Treaty Day only, for three years, then forbade them again. They were later freed as far as the Lummi were concerned through the efforts of John Alexis.

At Tulalip Mrs. William Shelton described the events there as in part the result of her husband’s diplomacy:

“The Treaty Day celebration started because the agent Buchanan wanted to have a celebration of the anniversary of the signing of the treaty. The first time he tried it a number of people said that they were not going to celebrate the occasion upon which they lost their lands, etc., etc. Buchanan than asked William Shelton how he could manage to interest people in making it a holiday. William suggested that they give a show imitating the old skəla’litut dances, and the agent agreed to let them do it. The first year they had it in the schoolhouse. They collected about fifty dollars to imitate a potlatch, and Johnny Fornsby sang and gave it away. A few others danced. They invited the Swinomish for this.

Because this was in the school building the children were not fed enough [?], so William said that he would build an old-fashioned house for the following year. So Buchanan said he would permit it and provided the lumber. William made the posts and had two fellows build it. This time they invited the Lummi as well as the Swinomish. This was 1913 when the smokehouse was built, the second year that they had the dances on Treaty Day. The Swinomish built their smokehouse the same year and used it to practice in before the Treaty Day celebration. The Lummi built theirs just after William built his. The Lummi smokehouse was on Jack Pierre’s place.

Measles broke out about the time for the celebration and Buchanan stopped it for one year because he was afraid that the measles would spread among the children. So that year the Swinomish went to work and put it on. Since then they have done so. The old people here had died so William let the Swinomish go ahead and put it on.

Mrs. Shelton’s daughter, Mrs. Harriet Williams, added that her father had written to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs and also, she thought, to the Secretary of the Interior asking that the Indians be given the right to perform their old dances. I do not know whether this was before the first Treaty Day show or after the subsequent prohibition; perhaps it was the latter.

The Johnny Fornsby mentioned by Mrs. Shelton was the Upper Skagit shaman whose life-history Coffins recorded.[lix] She gives his version of what happened verbatim, and unfortunately, I think, without comment or analysis. The gist of it seems to be that it was Fornsby’s own skwədi’lič power that forced Buchanan to free the spirit dances. A man was lost in the woods in the winter-time at Tulalip. Fornsby’s version holds that Buchanan said, “If John finds that man, I’ll let them use all the power they want and have a time.” Fornsby made skwədi’lič “boards” of cedar-bark, and they led him toward the man. He did not find him, but he gave up within 80 yards of where a logger found him in the spring. Then Buchanan gave the songs back. At the first performance, in the school-house, Fornsby started with héyida, a wealth power, followed by others, including John Skudab with q’wa’xq’əd. In the middle Fornsby sang skwədi’lič with the boards. The school-teachers were frightened because the boards got rough to show their power.

“That is how we got Treaty Day. Dr. Buchanan didn’t want the Indians to have the old-time way. But that time they saw how the Indians fixed power. And he saw the guarding power (skwədi’lič) shake right in the room, running around the school building. That is why those folks have a time now on Treaty Day.[lx]

It is difficult to say, from the evidence at hand, just what Buchanan’s motives were. Mrs. Williams believed that they were more or less those he expressed in the above quotation from him, to show the children what the old culture had to offer so that they might see better the contrast between it and what they were learning in school. The effect may not have been what he desired; Mrs. Williams was a school-child herself at the time and remarked on how thrilled the children were to hear the drums as they were marched over to where the show was put on.

Mrs. John Brown at Lummi said merely that Buchanan “got inquisitive about the old potlatch” and asked to see what it was like. Buchanan certainly was interested in learning about the old culture, as his writings indicate, so this may have been a motive also.

There is a third, though less likely, possibility. The Shakers had begun making gains at Tulalip not long before, and in the same 1914 report quoted above Buchanan roundly denounces Shakerism as a disguised form of the old “tamanumus” religion.[lxi] Informants say that he even tried to suppress the Shakers for a few years. It is barely possible that he freed the spirit songs, hoping to fight fire with fire.

It seems likely that the power songs would have come out into the open in time regardless of Buchanan. There were old people who had sung in secret or away from the reservation who needed support from younger people, and there were middle-aged people who had never sung but might have in the old life and felt they needed to now. But the Treaty Day shows may have given more impetus to the revival. Several of the people Wike[lxii] worked with at Swinomish told her that they had first become aware of their powers while mimicking the old dancers for the first Treaty Day shows. Perhaps Mrs. John Brown expressed Buchanan’s role accurately when she said, “Buchanan seemed to unwind the thing.”

At Lummi, perhaps until about 1920, it was evidently necessary to fight both Buchanan’s restrictions and the opposition of the local priest. Here John Alexis was a man who needed to sing. His wife had died, and he wandered around mourning her. He found in the Bible a passage, “They shall have dreams of dreams,” so he wrote Washington saying that the power songs come from dreams and thus the Bible justifies them. He argued with the agent that not all the old dances consisted of cutting oneself with knives and drinking blood, and that these would be left in the past. He invited two priests and a Protestant minister to a feast for spirit dancing and convinced them that it was “just a social gathering.”


The Lummi tribe exists at this time both as a separate social entity and as a separate political entity. Its separate existence as a social entity springs in part from the physical and cultural differences that exist between the Lummi Indians and their white neighbours, but perhaps also in part from their political separation. The separate existence of the Lummi as a political entity springs from the fact that their land, the Lummi Reservation, is in a special status, subject to restrictions not applicable to adjacent lands and not directly under the jurisdiction of local and State governments. The total area of the Lummi Reservation is 12,502 acres, of which (in 1950) 2,338 acres are held in fee patent and the rest restricted. The present population is 834. All persons born in the United States are citizens and have the right to vote, but those living on the reservation are subject to restrictions regarding liquor, and those on restricted land are subject to restrictions regarding the use and disposal of that land and enjoy freedom from paying taxes on that land. Membership in the tribe is determined by the tribe.

The business of the tribe is conducted according to a written constitution by a tribal council. The tribal council consists of twelve members, one of which, the chief, is a life member and the rest of which are elected to three-year terms. The terms are so arranged that two or three expire annually. Elections are by secret ballot; all adult members of the tribe may vote. However, either the Lummi are well satisfied with the council or else interest in tribal politics may not run very high; it is said that at the last election only forty or fifty persons voted, and the same persons have been in office for some time. Since the death of his father-in-law, Chief Kwina, in 1926, August Martin has been the chief of the Lummi tribe. He is now advanced in years and does not participate much in tribal business; his main function seems to be that of tribal historian and genealogist. If any question of membership in the tribe comes up, it is submitted to his judgment, and his truly remark able memory for family relationships usually settles it. After each election the council members elect their officers. At present they are: Norbert James, chairman; Earl Thomas, vice-chairman; Joseph Hillaire, secretary; and Victor Jones, treasurer. The council also appoints committees; there are standing committees on health and education, and others appointed to handle specific matters to be discussed with agencies of the county or state governments. The tribal council also handles tribal property and funds. In addition to the tribal council, there are four other public officials—a judge and a policeman, nominated by the council and commissioned by the Indian Bureau, and a road supervisor and a dyke supervisor, hired by the Indian Bureau.

All of the dry land on the reservation was allotted, so that the only lands remaining as tribal property are the tide-lands around the reservation. These afford some income for the tribe; areas are leased as booming-grounds, oyster-beds, and resort beaches in front of some of the allotments that have been sold to non-Indians. Additional income is derived from the sale to non-Indians of permits to hunt on the reservation, and the sale to members of the tribe of permits to fish in the tribally owned waters of Bellingham Bay and the mouth of the Nooksack River. The tribal income is used for the maintenance of the tribal cemetery and for the salary of the policeman. Fines levied by the judge in cases tried on the reservation also go into the tribal fund.

The Federal Government, through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, is ultimately responsible for the use and disposition of land on the reservation, for the maintenance of law and order, and for health and education among its people. However, the Bureau has been gradually withdrawing from direct contact and delegating several of its responsibilities to State and local bodies. It delegates law and order in part to the Indians themselves. For education it has a contract with the State, which in turn deals with the school district, and for health it has a contract with the county. The Lummi have, therefore, a broad range of relationships with government; they have to deal with the Government of the United States, the Government of the State of Washington, Whatcom County, and the local school district of Ferndale.

At one time a sub-agent resided at Lummi, responsible to the agent at Tulalip. At present the various agencies of the western part of the State have been combined to form a Western Washington Agency, with offices at Everett. The Agency still has a small lot between the school and the church, but the house where the sub-agent lived is rented to the road supervisor. A small office also stands on the lot and is used by a representative of the Bureau who comes to deal with land questions. The inheritance, lease, or sale of restricted land must be approved by the Bureau. Inheritance follows the laws of the State of Washington, which specify which kinsman inherits the property of a deceased person, but there is still a great backlog of cases where the kin are too numerous for easy settlement. In such cases the land may be leased, and the rent divided among the heirs, but sometimes there are scores of heirs, so that each receives only a few cents a year. The clerical work required of the Bureau for this is, of course, enormous, while the benefit to the Indians is slight. A few allotments have had a number of heirs who could agree to a sale, so that these have been sold and are no longer owned by Indians. However, two pieces of property that have become valuable as resort areas have been separated in this manner; their sale was perhaps the best solution to the heirship problem at the time, but some regret is felt to-day over the loss.

About 1907 the Indian Bureau acquired the site of the present school and built on it. The present plant was built between 1929 and 1936. It includes a five-room school building and a gymnasium and cafeteria. For a time, the reservation was a school district by itself with its own school board, but in 1941 it was consolidated with the Ferndale School District. At present most children go through grade school at the Lummi school and those who go on to high school go to Ferndale. Two school buses run through the reservation. In the fall of 1952 there were 110 pupils and five teachers in the Lummi grade school; ninety-three pupils finished the year. About thirty were attending junior high or high school at Ferndale. A few go to the Assumption School (Catholic) in Bellingham, and a few, mainly those without parental care, go to the Indian boarding-school at Chemawa.

Like all public schools, the Femdale schools are supported by taxes. To compensate for the absence of tax money from Indian property, the Federal Government allocates funds to the State Governments, which in turn apportion them out to the school districts, depending on the number of children of Indians on tax-free land attending. The Ferndale School District therefore receives money from Olympia for the Lummi children. In addition, the Indian Bureau hires a full-time caretaker, Aloysius Charles, for the school plant on the reservation. One Lummi, Earl Thomas, is a member of the Ferndale District School Board.

According to 1950 figures, sixty-five Lummi were high-school graduates. The figure is no doubt higher now. At least one Lummi has a university degree, in mechanical engineering, and several have graduated from business colleges.

Whatcom County maintains the main roads on the reservation, and the tribe, helped by the Indian Bureau, maintains the others. The road supervisor hired by the Bureau grades the tribal roads with the Bureau’s road-grader; the same man also grades on the Tulalip Reservation. The county is also responsible for health and sanitation on the reservation, as elsewhere in the county. The county health nurse makes regular calls, but in addition the Bureau pays a doctor from Bellingham to make weekly calls. Lummi patients can be admitted to the county hospital as well as to the Bureau’s Cushman Hospital at Tacoma. The county administers social security, so old-age pensioners deal with the office in Bellingham. All citizens of the State over 65 are eligible for an old-age pension; Indians are not excepted.

A series of lawsuits during the first quarter of the century helped to define the rights of Indians in the matter of fishing and hunting. After the trap-men took the reef-net locations off the reservation, the Fish and Game Department attempted to enforce its regulations on the reservation in the interest of conservation. However, the Indians won the right to regulate hunting and fishing on the reservation and in the adjacent waters. The present situation seems to be that Indians have no rights beyond those of other citizens in the matter of fishing and hunting off the reservations, with the exception that they do not have to buy licences; instead, they are provided by the Indian Bureau with cards identifying them as Indians. On the reservation they are not subject to State game regulations, but the Lummi tribal council attempts to enforce its own regulations, keeping them in accord with those of the State. But it is my impression that neither party is wholly satisfied with this arrangement.

The present policeman on the reservation is Joseph Washington. He is on duty at dances, at the annual carnival, and such occasions. He is paid by the hour by the tribal council out of tribal funds. According to the present judge, Aloysius Charles, the great majority of offences are “drunk and disorderly.” His records were not available, but it is his impression that offenders are more often middle aged than young persons. Liquor, and more often beer, is easily obtained from legitimate dealers; “the bootleggers that used to be in Marietta must have all gone to the old folks’ home.” When a case comes up before Mr. Charles, he gives the accused his choice of trial on the reservation, in the County Court in Bellingham, or in the Federal Court in Seattle. Actually, the County Court probably has no legal jurisdiction. Most minor offenders are evidently satisfied with local justice; any more serious offence would be sent on anyway. There are only two recent thefts on record; one is being investigated by the F.B.I. The only case of the use of narcotics known was the occurrence of a couple of marihuana parties, which were blamed on a Mexican migrant labourer. In the only recent murder on the reservation, both parties were Indians but not Lummi; the reservation policeman made the arrest and called the County Sheriff to take the prisoner to the county jail, from which he was taken to Seattle for trial.

According to figures made available by the Western Washington Agency, the Lummi number at present 834, some fifty of whom live off the reservation. The population on the reservation is scattered over the whole area but with a concentration at the River Village. Probably most of those listed as off the reservation are living in the adjacent town of Marietta.

Farming is no longer an important activity of the Lummi. Almost the only land now cultivated on the reservation is that under the Lummi dyke, and of this perhaps three-fourths is leased to white farmers. On the higher land of the peninsula, allotments that were good farms fifty years ago are now covered with second growth. Beef cattle and sheep run free on the peninsula, but stock that requires more constant attention is rare.

Undoubtedly the major activity of the Lummi to-day is fishing. Most important are purse-seining and gill-netting. There are from twenty-five to thirty purse-seine boats owned by Lummi fishermen, each manned by a crew of about seven, hired from the reservation. These boats operate during the fishing season out in the near-by channels and into the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the southern end of Georgia Strait; their owners moor them at the Bellingham boat havens. There are many more gill-net boats, each operated by one or two men in Bellingham Bay or the Nooksack River. One man, who is perhaps the most prosperous on the reservation, owns three purse-seiners, a fleet of gill-netters, and also acts as fish-buyer in the River Village. Three or four men have traps in the tide-flats, now illegal off the reservation, but each of these is probably no more productive than a gill-net. A few men troll in the winter with outboard motors, but not commercially.

Reef-netting, once the principal fishing method of the Lummi, is now almost entirely in the hands of whites. Reef-netting declined after the traps were built by whites on the reef-net locations in the 1890’s and then made a come-back after the traps were outlawed in the 1930’s. Now the waters of Legoe Bay off Lummi Island are covered with reefnets during the sockeye season. Both gear-owners and hired fishermen are organized, and the use of locations is regulated by the gear-owners’ association. There are no Lummi gear-owners, but a few Lummi work on the gears of others.

Industrial work off the reservation probably ranks second to fishing. During the fishing season many women work at the canneries in Bellingham while their menfolk are out on the purse-seiners. Besides this a few men work in lumbering and a few as carpenters for contractors. A weaving establishment on the reservation operated by a white couple hires several young Lummi women. Several young women have also been employed at secretarial work. There has been no noticeable seasonal migration to the berry and hop fields from the Lummi Reservation since the 1930’s.

Native crafts have hardly survived. Only two or three women are now able to make baskets, and even they do not regularly do so. One man has attempted to carve for sale, but his style, while in better taste than that of many commercial carvings seen elsewhere, is still more original than aboriginal.

The Catholic church still stands where it was moved after the disintegration of the Old Lummi Village. Father Conger, of Ferndale, celebrates mass here, at Ferndale, and at Blaine every Sunday, alternating the hours. The majority of Lummi probably regard themselves as Catholic, although many do not attend church regularly. There is also a small Shaker church, which is not used regularly, and a Church of the Nazarene, which was built about 1951 and is rather active. A few people belong to a Pentecostal church in Bellingham. Although the old smoke-house fell down about 1951, spirit dancing is carried on in private homes, and there has been some talk of building a new smoke house.

Perhaps half a dozen Lummi served in the United States armed forces during the First World War. During the Second World War there were between twenty and thirty. Six were killed in the Second World War and one in the Korean conflict. After the Second World War an American Legion post was organized on the reservation and named for John Kittles, one of the casualties. Its first commander was a veteran of the First World War. The combined membership of the post and its auxiliary is eighty-two. The post is attempting to raise money for a hall by sponsoring an annual carnival. In the meantime, it meets in the school gymnasium, where it also gives dances (of the customary white ballroom type). In addition to the American Legion, there are several other associations—the Altar Society, a Catholic women’s organization of fifty-five members that attends to the needs of the church; the Helping Hand, a mothers’ club of twenty-six that does welfare work; a Boy Scout troop of thirty; and a Parent-Teacher Association. During the winter of 1952—53 an unemployed group was organized with about seventy-five members; this may only reflect seasonal unemployment.

Strictly speaking, there are no longer any tribally sponsored events. In the first decade of the century the Lummi still had an annual clean-up of the cemetery, to which everyone came with picnic lunches; to-day a committee hires men to do the work at an hourly wage. The annual spirit-dance gatherings at the smoke-house, which began officially in the teens and lasted until the smoke-house fell down, were tribally sponsored events in that nearly everyone came, most families brought food for a meal for the guests, and guests from other tribes were formally invited and sometimes their transportation was provided. At one time several families pooled their food for each of the tables for the guests; more recently all the families that brought food put it together in the kitchen for equal distribution to all tables. To-day extra-tribal guests are invited, but to smaller gatherings at private homes.

The annual picnic in June at Gooseberry Point is the old carnival held in the teens revived in 1946 by the American Legion post. It is a three-day affair called the “Stommish Water Carnival “; the name is the native word for “warrior,” the choice probably being based on the fact that it is held on what is believed to be the anniversary of a battle with the Yukulta. The greater part of the grounds is occupied by carnival concessions run by whites. The Indian contribution is threefold: Lummi women have a salmon-bake; there are canoe races between local canoes and outsiders invited from both sides of the International Boundary; and there are performances by an Indian dance troupe, “The Children of the Setting Sun,” organized by Joseph Hillaire. While the songs and dances of this group are of local origin and are often well performed, their costumes are almost entirely in Plains style, and behind the dance platform stands a canvas tepee painted with figures of equally exotic totem poles. These touches are presumably concessions to the picture most whites and even many young Indians have of what “real Indians” look like. Two features of the Stommish Water Carnival suggest that it has some of the functions of a community or tribal endeavour; first, all of the Lummi labour is donated freely regardless of membership in the Legion; second, the guest canoe crews are fed during their stay and given money for gasoline to bring them to the grounds, even though this expense has cut down the profits to the extent that the Legion still has only a foundation for its projected hail. Perhaps we have here two of the functions of the old potlatch in maintaining the group’s unity and maintaining its status vis-à-vis other groups. These were undoubtedly functions of the tribally sponsored spirit-dance gatherings in the smoke-house, and if a new smoke-house is built, it will be to carry on these functions as much as religious ones.

In material surroundings the Lummi are nearly identical with their white neighbours. Their dress is the same. Their houses are similar, though probably a greater number are unpainted and without modem conveniences. Most houses are near enough to the highway to have electricity, but far fewer have running water in the house, and inside plumbing is rare. Most families have automobiles and radios, a few have refrigerators, and in the summer of 1953 at least two had television sets. A few have telephones. Many, perhaps most, subscribe to the Bellingham newspaper.

As among their white neighbours, the houses that the more prosperous are building to-day are smaller than those built by their more prosperous grandparents, but, unlike their white neighbours, they show little corresponding tendency toward smaller families. Families tend to be large and the houses crowded by white standards. Like their white neighbours, they live in conjugal family units, and consequently mothers have less help with the children from grandparents, uncles, and aunts than their grandparents had. But among the Lummi, relatives are usually close at hand, older children are taught to look after younger children, and all are taught self-reliance.

Lummi mothers to-day have their babies at the hospital. There are no survivals of native observances surrounding birth. Lummi parents care for their children about as their white neighbours care for theirs, except perhaps that Lummi parents appear, to the whites at least, to treat their children more casually. English is the language of most homes, especially those without old people. Most children probably learn some thing of the native language through association with persons of their grandparents’ generation and by being present at gatherings where speeches in the native language are made. Nothing appears to correspond to the old training and questing for spirit power. Nothing appears to correspond to the old puberty rite.

Marriages to-day are entirely based on the choice of the couple themselves. Dating, dancing, and driving about in old jalopies are probably as much a part of courtship here as among local whites. Weddings have neither the exchange of bride-price and dowry of the aboriginal culture nor the feast with fiddling and square dancing of sixty years ago. However, as one informant pointed out, the shower for the bride has become an important occasion for gift-giving; it may be held in the gym, and several cars may be required to take home the presents. Also, Lummi parents are perhaps more inclined to give property to the young couple to start them off with than are white parents in this area. It is my impression that the white attitude toward little children is “nothing is too good for them,” but toward the marriage of a grown child, “Well, if you think you’re old enough to get married, go ahead, but don’t expect any help from us; you’re on your own.” But the Lummi attitude may rather be, toward little children, “Let big sister take care of little brother, and don’t worry about big sister; she can take care of herself,” and toward the marriage of a grown child, “We’d better give them part of the place or a new car; what will people think of us if our children are poor?” The difference, if this impression is correct, is probably one of identification of parents and children; white parents may feel that they are judged by their small children, but after these have reached maturity they can no longer be held responsible for them, while Lummi parents may feel that small children are not yet important enough to add anything to the family prestige but that grown children are.

One gets the impression that marriages among the Lummi are less stable than among their white neighbours. While there are a number of couples who have spent their entire adult lives together, there are also many persons, both old and young, who have been married several times. One informant attributed the frequency of divorce among the younger people to the unwillingness of both young men and women to make concessions in trying to adjust to one another. Marriages seem to have been not very stable in pre-white times as well, but probably more were broken because of conflicts in family loyalties than because of individual stubbornness. While the Catholic Church may well take credit for many of the stable marriages, its intolerance of divorce has meant that those who marry for the first time marry in the church but must, if they cannot make it last, marry outside the church, so that second and third marriages are often simply common-law marriages.

Native personal names are still used on formal occasions, though not everyone has one. Recently a young man was given his great-grand father’s inherited name by his grandmother. The grandmother invited about thirty persons to dinner and after the dinner asked the chief to explain the young man’s right to the name; that is, to give his genealogy back to the earliest known bearer of the name. This the chief did, going back six generations to the great-grandfather of the young man’s great-grandfather, who had first borne the name. After this demonstration of the inherited right, the grandmother gave out 50 cents each to the guests, for their having witnessed the taking of the name, and a little more to the chief.

While children have not been sent on spirit quests for many years, there are one or two new dancers at Lummi each year. Some are persons in middle age and some are young persons; the two young men who were new dancers in the winter of 1952—53 are said to know very little of the native language. The songs that possess the modem dancers are believed to have come unsought as a result of grief or perhaps just chance contact; some are the songs of deceased relatives. New dancers—that is, those dancing their first year—wear a mountain-goat wool head-dress over ordinary clothes and carry a decorated staff. After the first year, costumes differ; those with warrior songs may have hair head-dresses and shirts resembling those of the aboriginal warrior, while those with other songs may simply add a little red or black face paint to their ordinary dress.

In their reaction to death the Lummi preserve a good deal of native culture. Since the 1930’s they have been required by law to hire licensed undertakers. This has meant that native “undertakers,” really a class of ritualists, no longer care for the body, and that native-made coffins are no longer used. It also means that more money is spent but less remains within the community. Wakes are, of course, still held before the funeral, and the majority of funerals are Catholic; even if the deceased has not attended church in years, the Altar Society tries to see that he gets a Catholic burial. Immediately after the funeral, relatives and friends come to the house of the family of the deceased, many bringing food or money. The family then makes a meal for the guests with the food and then or later pays those who helped with the funeral. The family may also repay those who brought contributions to the feast. The clothes and personal effects of the deceased are burned, perhaps before the funeral, except for a few things saved to give to relatives as keepsakes. Some families also burn food for the ghost of the deceased either before or after the funeral and again at later intervals. The name of the deceased should not be uttered in the presence of near kin. I believe the feeling for this avoidance is strong; I once observed a Lummi woman whose father had died the week before deliberately and with obvious emotion pick up an envelope with his name written on it and replace it on the table upside down. This woman also put away all pictures of her father and said that she would not take them out until she could afford to display one publicly at a winter spirit-dance gathering and pay the guests to look at it. This last custom is more frequently followed on Vancouver Island and on the Fraser River and may have been suggested by her Fraser River husband. The custom is probably an old one, with the modern photograph as substitute for a wooden effigy, used in the last century on Vancouver Island; the effigy may have been a post-Christian substitute for the body itself, which was in pre-white times taken out of the grave-box for rewrapping. I have, however, seen the spirit-dance costume of a man dead a number of years displayed in the Lummi smoke-house at a spirit-dance gathering; at the same time his spirit song was sung by members of his family.

Missing, I believe, from the modern Lummi practice is any kind of purification of the mourners; it may be that the Catholic funeral service has made this unnecessary, but the offering of food to the dead is certainly not entirely in keeping with Christian notions regarding the destiny of the human soul.

Another expense required by a modern funeral is for the headstone. Though some stones in the Lummi cemetery are rather large, they are simple in design and in as good taste as those seen in white cemeteries. There seems to be some tendency to use tombstones as a means of exhibiting one’s family’s status. Recently several stones have been erected for important ancestors dead seventy-five years or more, in one or two instances with purely hypothetical dates on them. Also, several stones for relatives of the last chief bear statements of the relationships though they are not those that ordinarily appear on the tombstones of whites.

In their attitudes toward sickness and death, some of the older Lummi, if not most of them, differ from their white neighbours. Some informants, at least, have been very quick to attribute both illnesses and deaths to supernatural causes, or to natural causes resulting from someone’s hostility. Supernatural causes include deliberate attack with shaman’s power or ritualist’s spells, accidental loss or displacement of the soul, accidental loss or displacement of the guardian spirit. I do not know of any active shamans or ritualists at Lummi at the present moment, but shamans were active until very recently and are believed to be active still in other communities. There are a number of spirit dancers, all of whom have some power. Chronic illness, especially in the winter, may be attributed to possession by a spirit that desires the sick person to become a new dancer and sing its song. Soul loss may result from accidental contact with a spirit dancer or from theft by ghosts. According to one informant, the Shakers have inflicted injuries especially on shamans by capturing their powers and damaging them. One recent death, which according to hospital records was caused by pneumonia, was believed by the relatives of the deceased to have been caused by his having been poisoned by his common-law wife. These attitudes may not be found among the younger Lummi, but their existence among the older people suggests as much as anything that a good deal of the native world-view has survived.

To-day Lummi are in direct contact with whites on many jobs, in schools above grade school, and in some churches. This contact is without hostility. It is true that many whites in the area regard Indians as socially inferior, but overt discrimination seems to be rare. There are no strong barriers to casual social contact. White girls have occasionally come with Lummi girl friends to the American Legion dances. There have been a few mixed marriages in every generation, both of Lummi women to white men and of Lummi men to white women. Two or three of the leading Lummi men have white wives, and two or three Lummi women have white husbands living on the reservation.


The purpose of this paper has been to present some of the main trends in the culture changes that have taken place among the Coast Salish and particularly among the Lummi since the arrival of the whites. This is in a sense both an acculturation and a community study, though not a full or detailed one. It attempts an historical survey of a sort perhaps basic to any investigation of the processes involved in cultural change. A total approach ought to include a considerable body of quantitative data both on economics and family structure and on opinions and attitudes. It ought also to include the kinds of generalizations of character that can be made on the basis of numerous life histories. Yet I feel that such a study must have the kind of material that I have presented here as a basis; to understand where a people is to-day, one must know something of whence they came and by what route. Moreover, I feel that the material presented here ought itself to be set alongside comparable material from other Coast Salish tribes. In the preceding pages 1 have dealt with a number of aspects of Lummi culture, subsistence, government, religion, marriage, etc. In several of these aspects of culture rather clear sequences of forms are distinguishable. Let me briefly summarize some of them. In subsistence activities we have seen farming adopted shortly after the beginning of intensive contact and make, to judge from both the agents’ reports and the informants’ accounts, a spectacular rise and almost as spectacular a fall. The reasons for the fall have been discussed, but in retrospect I must also add that there has probably been a shift away from farming, at least subsistence farming, among local whites as well; farming is becoming a business in which many persons, including Indians, no longer wish to compete. Fishing, on the other hand, has persisted in one form or another, the sequence of reef-netting to gill-netting to gill-netting plus purse-seining being determined mainly by changes in white laws and the development of new techniques. Throughout, the Lummi have shown a tendency to divide the year among seasonal pursuits; perhaps fishing, or rather the habits of the salmon, is still the principal determining factor. Seasonal berry and hop picking became popular for a time but declined probably because of the greater attraction of fishing. The sequence might be summarized as (1) hunting, fishing, and gathering; (2) farming and fishing; (3) fishing, farming, and migratory labour; (4) fishing and semi-skilled labour.

In political institutions the sequence has been (1) social control by other than separate political organs; (2) the appointed chief as an instrument of the agent, possibly plus the priest as a political power; (3) an elected council dealing with various levels of outside government. Non-political instruments of social control—that is, “public opinion,” kinship bonds, etc.—have continued to exist, of course, modified by cultural change themselves. One might point out, along with changes in government, the sequence in public buildings—( 1) smoke-house, (2) church and smoke-house, (3) gymnasium.

In religion the sequence has been (1) native-belief system centring about the guardian-spirit concept; (2) the native system plus a Prophet Dance with a Supreme Being and greater group participation; (3) Catholicism with the native system underground; (4) diversification, with Catholicism as the orthodoxy, in competition with a revived spirit dancing, Shakerism as a compromise, and several revivalist Protestant sects. Individualism, implicit in the native system, may be the persistent feature here, yet diversity, like individualism, is typical of modern white society.

In marriage the sequence has been (1) family-arranged alliance with exchange of bride-price and dowry and display of inherited privilege equivalent to wedding, later exchanges of food and wealth; (2) family arranged alliances with bride-price and dowry, Catholic wedding, feast with square dancing, later exchanges of food and wealth; (3) free choice of mates, free choice of kind of wedding. Instability of marriages may be a persistent feature of native culture or may be simply a feature of rapid culture change.

In death the sequence has been (1)) handling of corpse by ritualists, disposal in canoe or raised box, purification of mourners by ritualists, later display and rewrapping of remains, all services requiring public repayment; (2) handling by ritualists, Catholic service and burial, post funeral feast, offerings for dead, later display of memento and payment of funeral debts; (3) handling of corpse by white undertaker, otherwise as in (2).

A comparative study including several tribes would undoubtedly reveal similar sequences of forms in the various aspects of culture. It might also show something of their interrelationships. Are any of the sequences inherent in the elements of culture involved, or have they been largely the result of chance factors on the local scene or historic events on a broader scale? Certainly, each of the Coast Salish tribes has had its own post-white history. Let me indicate briefly what some of the differences have been.

The nearest neighbours of the Lummi to the south were the Samish, who, like the Lummi, spoke the Straits language. According to the treaty the Samish were to have come on to the Lummi Reservation, but very few chose to do so. Instead they maintained themselves in an independent village on Samish Island until about 1875, when they were forced to move to Guemes Island. On Guemes they built a great native style house divided into three segments, which held as permanent residents more than fifty people. Here the Samish held several potlatches and carried on spirit dancing and other native practices with little interference from whites. They were probably much more dependent on native subsistence techniques during this period than were the Lummi and upon seasonal employment with whites; I do not believe that they did any farming at all. About 1905 the Guemes village was abandoned, partly because the big house was falling down, and the younger people preferred to live in small white-style houses, and probably partly because it was becoming more difficult to make a living there. Many of the Samish had ties with the Swinomish, so most of them moved on to the Swinomish Reservation. While they were not numerous, the Samish were probably influential in maintaining native culture in this area; two of the recent leaders in spirit-dancing on the Swinomish Reservation, Charley Edwards and Tommy Bobb, have been Samish. The post-white history of the Samish obviously presents a rather sharp contrast to that of the Lummi.

South of the Samish are the Puget Sound-speaking Swinomish. Their territory became the reservation designated not only for themselves, but also for the Skagit and several up-river groups. In time many Indians from these other groups as well as from the Samish have come on to the Swinomish Reservation, where they have often continued to think of themselves as Skagit, Samish, or whatever. The Swinomish did not take to farming as readily as did the Lummi, and evidently did not experience any period of prosperity as the Lummi seem to have experienced in the latter part of the last century. In 1867, when the farmer Finkbonner wrote in praise of the Lummi as farmers and mentioned “friendly relations” with the whites, the agent McKenny, discouraged with the Swinomish, wrote of them:

“The Indians of this island are without an employee [of the Indian Service], few in number, lazy and shiftless, and much degraded. Many whites have located near them, and all their vices are imitated without any of their virtues, if indeed they have any.[lxiii]

Recent Swinomish history has also been different from that of the Lummi. In the 1930’s the Swinomish Tribal Community was organized, establishing a tribally owned fish-trap, sawmill, and other enterprises.[lxiv] The people of the Swinomish Reservation have to-day considerably more communal property than do the Lummi; possibly because of this, possibly because of their diverse tribal origins, there also seems to be much more factionalism at Swinomish than at Lummi.

East of the Lummi in the Nooksack Valley are the Nooksack. They were expected to move on to the Lummi Reservation, but, like the Samish, they refused to do so and instead homesteaded land on the river in their aboriginal territory. Much of this land originally homesteaded has become public land allotments, tax-free but restricted. The Nooksack had a brief contact with Father Chirouse but rejected him and later became Protestants. For a time, they maintained their own Protestant school. While living off a reservation on Guemes Island meant relative isolation and retention of native culture for the Samish, it is my impression that living off the reservation has meant greater contact with whites and more rapid acculturation for the Nooksack. Whites have lived around them and among them, and early relations were evidently fairly good. Being an up-river people, they have been less able to continue with fishing as a major activity. But they have also had many contacts with Fraser River Indians, and what of the native speech that is still spoken among them is Fraser River Halkomelem rather than the original Nooksack language.

On Vancouver Island the Sooke, Songish, and Saanich speak the same language as the Lummi and Samish, had the most similar native culture, and had roughly the same early relations with the whites. Since white settlement, however, they have been under a different administration. One of the most striking differences has been in the establishment of Indian reserves. In British Columbia the reserves are considerably smaller than the reservations in Washington, but far more numerous.

Nearly every village-site, fishing location, and even camas-bed of any importance was made a reserve. Most native communities in British Columbia therefore escaped the forced removals that many Washington communities experienced. They were also undoubtedly able to maintain native subsistence methods for a longer period and perhaps to shift more gradually to white methods. But this policy in establishing reserves has also meant that no groups were left on the outside, in a more independent situation, like the Samish in Washington.

The Songish, living within the City of Victoria, evidently became rather badly demoralized during the latter part of the last century. How ever, despite predictions of speedy extinction, they have survived, and both spirit dancing and the secret society are still important native complexes in their culture. The Saanich, being a larger group and living farther from the city, were probably subjected to fewer factors, other than those resulting from different administrations, as compared with the Lummi. A comparison of the post-white history of the Saanich and Lummi might be most rewarding in examining the results of these different policies.

North of the Saanich were the Cowichan of the Cowichan Valley and several closely related communities on Kuper Island, at Westholme, and on Kulleet Bay. These communities are relatively populous, and among them spirit dancing and other elements of the native religion are undoubtedly more active than among any other Coast Salish group. These activities of the Cowichan may well have exerted a powerful influence on tribes as far south as the Swinomish in keeping spirit dancing alive. Like the Lummi, the Cowichan are said to have gone through a period of successful farming. Whether they have largely given up farming for similar reasons and whether or not they can make as successful a re-adaptation to fishing are questions that require further investigation.

These few examples should indicate something of the variety of experiences that the Straits tribes and their immediate neighbours have undergone. Obviously valid generalizations cannot be made on the basis of the post-contact history of one tribe alone. It is in the hope that this description of the post-contact history of the Lummi can be used in comparative studies that this paper is offered.



BARNETT, H. G. 1938. “The Coast Salish of Canada,” American Anthropologist, XL (1938), pp. 118—141. 1939. “Culture Element Distribution: IX, Gulf of Georgia Salish,” University of California, Anthropological Records, Vol. I, No. 5.

BOAS, FRANZ. 1889. “Notes on the Snanaimuq,” American Anthropologist, 11(1889), pp. 32 1—328. 1890. “Second General Report on the Indians of British Columbia. I. The LküñgEn,” British Association for the Advancement of Science.

BUCHANAN, CHARLEs M. 1914. “Annual Report, 1914, Tulalip Agency,” MS., in the possession of Mr. Leon Stock, Marysville, Wash.

C0DERE, HELEN. 1950. Fighting with Property, New York, 1950, Monographs of the American Ethnological Society, XVIII.

COLLINS, JUNE MCCoRMICK. 1949. “John Fornsby: The Personal Document of a Coast Salish Indian,” in Marian W. Smith (ed.), Indians in the Urban North west, New York, 1949, pp. 287—341. 1950. “The Growth of Class Distinctions and Political Authority among the Skagit Indians during the Contact Period,” American Anthropologist, LII (1950), pp. 33 1—342.

CURTIS, EDWARD S. 1913. The North American Indian, Vol. IX, Coast Salish, Norwood, Mass., 1913.

DRUCKER, PHILIP. 1939. “Rank, Wealth, and Kinship in Northwest Coast Society,” American Anthropologist, XLI (1939), pp. 55—66.

DUFF, WILSON. 1952. The Upper Stab Indians, Anthropology in British Columbia, Memoir No. 1, British Columbia Provincial Museum, Victoria, 1952.

GIBBS, GEORGE. 1855. “Report on the Indian Tribes of the Territory of Washington,” Pacific Railroad Report, Washington, D.C., 1855, Vol. I, pp. 402-436.

GUNTHER, ERNA. 1949. “The Shaker Religion of the Northwest,” in Marian W. Smith (ed.), op. cit., pp. 37—76. 1954 THE LUMMI INDIANS 101

HILL-TOUT, CHARLES. 1907. “Report on the Ethnography of the Southeastern Tribes of Vancouver Island, B.C.,” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, XXXVII (1907), pp. 306—374.

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MORICE, O.M.I., REV. A. G. 1910. The History of the Catholic Church in Western Canada, Toronto, 1910.

MURDOCK, 0. P. 1934. “Kinship and Social Behavior among the Haida,” American Anthropologist, XXXVI (1934), pp. 355—385.

NEWC0MBE, C. F. 1923. Menzies’ Journal of Vancouver’s Voyage, April to October, 1792, Archives of British Columbia, Memoir V, Victoria, 1923.

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[i] Native terms are transcribed with the phonetic symbols currently used for linguistic work in this area. See Duff (1952), p. 132. For detailed bibliographic reference to source material, see the appendix accompanying this article.

[ii] The Straits peoples have received a rather uneven treatment in the literature. Two early papers appeared on the Songish by Boas (1890) and Hill-Tout (1907); Curtis (1913) touched upon all but gave more attention to the Lummi; Barnett covered the Saanich in his paper (1938) and element list (1939); but only one ethnography exists for any Straits group, that of Stern (1934) on the Lummi. In addition to these works, I have had access to a manuscript by

Diamond Jenness on the Saanich. In 1946 I began what developed into a comparative ethnographic study of the Straits tribes, centring about economic life (Suttles, 1952, MS.). This work was supported by the Department of Anthropology of the University of Washington and by a Wenner-Gren Foundation Pre-doctoral Fellowship. The results will appear as a separate monograph. The present paper began simply as a by-product of the main study, which was on aboriginal culture. It began when I went systematically through the early Indian Agents’ reports on the Lummi and their neighbours and added to these notes data and impressions gathered from Lummi informants. To this I have added material obtained from further work in the field, this time supported by the Carnegie Grant to Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. I am indebted to Mr. H. E. Buswell of Marietta, Washington, for many helpful suggestions and data on local history. My Indian informants, to whom I am most greatly indebted, are too numerous to list here; moreover, they are not responsible for my interpretation of their culture and history.

[iii] Wagner (1933), p. 109.

[iv] Ibid., p. 187.

[v] Newcombe (1923), p. 80.

[vi] The originals of these Journals are in the Archives of B.C. See also Duff (1952), pp. 25—26. 40

[vii] For early missionary work in this area, see Morice (1910), Vol. II, part 6.

[viii] Mooney (1928), p. 15, has figures for Washington and for British Columbia on page 26.

[ix] Kroeber (1939), p. 133.

[x] Gibbs (1855), p. 435.

[xi] See Suttles (1951) for discussion of the problem.

[xii] The first two factors in the historic social organization of the Northwest Coast as a whole have been discussed by Drucker (1939) and others.

[xiii] Collins (1950) has discussed the development of greater class differences among the Upper Skagit which resulted from the increase in wealth at this time.

[xiv] Boas (1889); Curtis (1913), p. 32.

[xv] Codere (1950).

[xvi] Howay (1942) clearly disposes of the notion that the Chinook jargon was widespread in pre-contact times. However, Jacobs (1932) describes a form of the jargon spoken on the Lower Columbia that is so much more complex than that used elsewhere that it can only be a native development; it may be that in a small area it was pre-white.

[xvii] See Murclock (1934) for example.

[xviii] Spier (1935).

[xix] Collins (1950), p. 340.

[xx] Duff (1952), pp. 119—120.

[xxi] Stern (1934), p. 107, and my own informants’ versions.

[xxii] Stern (1934), pp. 107—108, gives this tradition and the first as one; some of my informants knew the first, but none gave the second.

[xxiii] Curtis (1913), pp. 25—30; Roth (1926), pp. 964—965; Stern (1934), pp. 115—120.

[xxiv] Mooney (1928).

[xxv] Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to the Secretary of the Interior, Washington, D.C., 1857, p. 326. Hereafter cited as CIA-AR with year of report.

[xxvi] CIA-AR, 1858, p. 230.

[xxvii] I am writing here of members of other tribes who were expected to come and settle as such. Later, when individual allotments were available, a number of persons whose primary identification had been with other groups came to receive allotments because of part Lummi ancestry.

[xxviii] CIA-AR, 1878, p. 194.

[xxix] CIA-AR, 1861, p. 173; CIA-AR, 1878, p. 164

[xxx] Underhull (1944), p. 219.

[xxxi] For information on Father Chirouse I have used Sullivan (1932).

[xxxii] ) The date of this change is not easy to determine, but I believe it occurred after 1853. In that year Winthrop made a trip from Victoria to Bellingham Bay, during which he visited the Lummi weir; but his account does not make his route clear. The simplest explanation seems to me to be that he went up the main mouth, then flowing into Lummi Bay, saw the weir, and then descended the slough to Bellingham Bay. Winthrop, 1913, pp. 264—266, 278—280.

[xxxiii] CIA-AR, 1865, p. 74.

[xxxiv] CIA-AR, 1867, p. 58.

[xxxv] CIA-AR, 1871, p. 121.

[xxxvi] Roth (1926), p. 854, and a personal communication from Mr. H. E. Buswell.

[xxxvii] Roth (1926), p. 175.

[xxxviii] CiA-AR, 1859, pp. 338—340.

[xxxix] CIA-AR, 1867, p. 54.

[xl] CIA-AR, 1884, p. 169.

[xli] CIA-AR, 1881, Pp. 172—173.

[xlii] CIA-AR, 1889, p. 289.

[xliii] CIA-AR, 1891, p. 459. This was at Tulalip, so may not include Lummi cases settled at Lummi.

[xliv] CIA-AR, 1892, p. 506.

[xlv] CIA-AR, 1861, pp. 180—181.

[xlvi] CIA—AR, 1867, p. 58.

[xlvii] CiA-AR, 1880, pp. 165—166.

[xlviii] CIA-AR, 1884, p. 170.

[xlix] CIA-AR, 1884, pp. 288—289. 1954

[l] CIA-AR, 1889, p. 288.

[li] CIA-AR, 1884, pp. 298—299; 1891, p. 459.

[lii] CIA-AR, 1891, p. 459.

[liii] CIA-AR, 1895, p. 319

[liv] Buchanan (1914), MS.

[lv] CIA-AR, 1902, p. 362.

[lvi] CIA-AR, 1897, pp. 296-297.

[lvii] Gunther (1944).

[lviii] Buchanan (1914), MS., December 1, p. 17.

[lix] Collins (1949).

[lx] ibid., pp. 323—324.

[lxi] Buchanan (1914), MS

[lxii] Wike (1941).

[lxiii] CIA-AR, 1867, p. 33.

[lxiv] Upchurch (1936) describes their reorganization. priests began only after the arrival of the Oblate Fathers, who established their headquarters at Esquimalt in 1857. The most influential of these men on the American