To celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day, Bellingham residents, members of the Bellingham City County and local indigenous tribes celebrated the first Coast Salish Day on Monday, Oct. 11.
Seen also in Seattle and Albuquerque, New Mexico, it was part of a nationwide movement to replace Columbus Day and instead celebrate the nation’s indigenous people.
Coast Salish Day was designed and voted upon last year by the Bellingham City Council to honor and respect all local tribes who were residents long before Bellingham was a city.
The renaming of Columbus Day helped the Bellingham City Council to push the renaming of Indian Street. In November, the street will be renamed Billy Frank Jr. Street, Councilmember Terry Bornemann said.
“It’s really a representation and acknowledgment to the people of this territory,” Candice Wilson said, who helped organize the event. “It’s a momentous event and I’m honored to be involved.”
The event was hosted by Michael Vendiola, who supervises Native education in Washington. He described the city of Bellingham’s effort to acknowledge indigenous people as tremendous.
“I think that’s one of the most powerful statements that city government can make — to acknowledge that there are Native people in the area,” Vendiola said. “That’s the significance of Coast Salish Day.”
At the beginning of the event, three members of the local tribal community were given tribal blankets to warm their hearts, Vendiola said. They will be called upon to recall the event at a later date for their tribe, Vendiola said.
Roxanne Murphy, who serves on the Bellingham City Council, is an eighth generation member of the Nooksack tribe.
“Our resilience is our greatest revenge against colonization,” Murphy said.
Coast Salish Day was also a time of education. Suzanne Wittman, a teacher at Bellingham’s Explorations Academy, brought her class to the event. Some of her students said they felt a better understanding of the Lummi People and their culture after what they heard at the event.
“This event symbolizes a new era, a new way of understanding, respecting and acknowledging the First Peoples of this area,” Vendiola said.
Wittman also observed the importance of this day in history.
“You will remember when Columbus Day got kicked to the curb,” Wittman said.
Bellingham City Council expects Coast Salish Day to continue to be a holiday.