Honoring Whatcom County's Indigenous People
Every day is the right time to honor Native culture, strength, and fortitude. Every day is an opportunity to tell the world: we are here. We are still here. And there is much cause for celebration. – First Nations Development Institute
Whatcom County’s Indigenous People have inhabited and cared for the lands of the Salish Sea basin since time immemorial. These groups include the Lummi, Nooksack, Samish, and Semiahmoo people.

In 1855, these and other tribes ceded ancestral lands to colonizers in the Treaty of Point Elliott in exchange for hunting and fishing rights. In this and other treaties with Native Americans, the U.S. government promised assistance to native tribes in terms of housing, infrastructure, education, and other areas. A promise which was broken.

According to a 2018 U.S. Commission on Civil Rights report, “due at least in part to the failure of the federal government to adequately address the wellbeing of Native Americans over the last two centuries, Native Americans continue to rank near the bottom of all Americans in health, education, and employment outcomes.”

Locally, 52% of American Indian/Alaska Native households in Whatcom County struggle to make ends meet, compared to 39% all households in the County.

Native American people and culture are an integral part of our nation’s history. Today’s materials explore their history, cultures, and the issues many tribes face to this day. 

  • This Bellingham Herald article highlights forced residential boarding school attendance for local tribal children in the first half of the 20th Century.


  • Check out the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian site where you can watch the video “Meet the People” of the Lummi Nation and explore their maps.