Stommish Water Festival

Welcoming the weekend warriors

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

From the back porch of our family’s cabin on Lummi Island, it’s possible to look across the waters of Hale Passage and view many postcard-worthy geographical landmarks—Mt. Baker, Portage Island, and Bellingham Bay among them.

And in the weeks and days leading up to the annual Lummi Stommish Water Festival, there’s always a good chance that, at some point during the course of the afternoon, those perched on the deck in order to view the lovely landscape will also be gifted with the vision of a variety of long canoes making their way quickly through the waves.

That’s when it’s time to get out the binoculars and focus your eyes on the scores of paddles hitting the water at precisely the same time, propelling the boats forward with the speed of warriors rushing to battle or athletes competing in exhilarating displays of athleticism to see who is the strongest—and the fastest.

As the war canoe races are an important part of the festival, it’s only natural the men, women and children who participate in them for three days every June want to put in as much practice time as possible. When the big day comes—when they join with their teammates or compete solo in their own canoes to continue the tradition of honoring those who came before them—they want to be ready.

“Week of the Warrior,” this year’s Stommish theme, hearkens back to the event’s beginning 67 years ago, when World War I veterans and Lummi Nation members Herbert John and Alphonso “Bunny” Washington got the idea to throw a celebration welcoming those who were returning home after surviving World War II. (Presumably, they were also honoring the memories of those who didn’t make it back to their earthly stomping grounds.)

After issuing an invitation to other regional tribes to get to Gooseberry Point for the festivities—which, much as they do today, also included barbecued salmon, singing, dancing, pageantry, music, games for the younger set and a carnival—the Lummi Stommish Water Festival was born.

By all accounts, the inaugural event was a popular one, with tribes coming from points both north and south to join in the celebration. Many of them even brought their own canoes so they could take part in the war canoe races.

These days, whether you’re admiring the view from afar or hanging out closer to the action, it’s clear that the idea Herbert John and Bunny Washington had to honor those who had sacrificed their time, energy and lives to defend their land was a successful one. Please remember them.

Ticket Cascadia
More Outdoors...
Spooky Sojourns
Of gore, lore, ghosts and more

What do a graphic murder mystery, Depression-era tales of darkness and despair, and spooky voice recordings have in common? They’re all part of what can be experienced by getting in on the Good Time Girls’ seasonal “Gore & Lore” tours taking place in downtown Bellingham every Saturday…

more »
Fall Fungi
Mushroomers gone wild

When perusing the astounding array of toadstools that will be on display at the Northwest Mushroomers Association’s 27th annual Wild Mushroom Show Sun., Oct. 16 at Bloedel Donovan, keep in mind that the spore samples weren’t purchased at a grocery store—they were carefully collected by…

more »
Weekend Warriors
A city of superheroes

If your weekend plans involve running or walking in a scenic locale, consider putting some of that energy into an endeavor that will not only elevate your heart rate, but also make that tender organ grow a few sizes by knowing you’ve accomplished good things for good people. Following are a…

more »
Handling the truth


Halloween Run

6:00pm|Fairhaven Runners

Anti-Inflammation Menu

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Beet Inspiration

6:30pm|Gretchen's Kitchen

Polyamorous Particulars

7:00pm|Village Books

Skagit Folk Dancers

7:00pm|Bayview Civic Hall

Raptor Management

7:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

MBT Ben Folds Everybody’s Store
Handling the truth


City Club Meeting

11:30am|Northwood Hall

Finger Painting for Grownups

3:00pm|Hops 'n Headz

Salish Sea Origins

4:00pm|Wilson Library

Marry Shelley's Frankenstein

6:00pm|Blaine Library

Wildlife Photography

6:00pm|South Whatcom Library

Group Run

6:00pm|Skagit Running Company

Winter Camping Basics


Group Run

6:00pm|Skagit Running Company

Basic Nutrients

6:30pm|Cordata Community Food Co-op

WJMAC Concert

7:00pm|Unity Spiritual Center


7:00pm|Village Books

Family Game Night

7:30pm|DUG Theater

MBT Ben Folds Bellingham Farmer’s Market
Handling the truth


Creepy Cabaret

6:30pm|Bellingham High School

Costume Party

6:30pm|Blaine Library

Scream Fair Haunted House

6:30pm|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

Berlin is My Paris

7:00pm|Village Books

Arsenic and Old Lace

7:00pm|Lynden Pioneer Museum

see our complete calendar »

MBT Once MBT Ben Folds Northwood Steak and Crab Artifacts Wine Bar Bellingham Farmer’s Market Village Books Swinomish 2016 Andrew Subin Lydia Place Everybody’s Store Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1