This profile is one in every of a sequence on the contributions, cultural information and energy of Native peoples in celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day, Monday, Oct. 11, and all through the month of November, which is Native American Heritage Day.
On the Stommish grounds of Lummi Nation, Chairman Lawrence Solomon crosses the gravel seaside to open the gate to the Tribe’s canoe shed. So far as the attention can see is Lummi fishing territory. He factors to one of many oldest canoes within the shed, it’s painted an excellent yellow and crimson. On the farthest wall is the Girl Rose — the canoe his mom used to paddle.
“This is just one a part of our tradition, however it’s one thing I grew up doing and love,” stated Solomon, who has been paddling because the age of 6 and competed in canoe races across the globe.
Certainly one of his favourite occasions of the 12 months is the Stommish Water Competition, which brings in dozens of canoe households from across the area. His great-grandmother Edith Jones and her husband Vic held the first Stommish — meaning “warrior” — in 1946 in honor of their two sons, Invoice and Stanley Solomon, and different Lummi veterans who returned house from World Conflict II.
Generations of Lummi canoes, lots of them dug out of entire cedar timber, sit within the huge shed on land as soon as owned by his great-grandparents and people earlier than them. Nicely earlier than his household donated the land to the Tribe, a pond by the hill was house to a whole lot of frogs.
“I’m informed the sound was deafening,” Solomon stated.
He shares the story his great-grandfather used to inform of an enormous sea monster who was swimming close by. It stopped to eat and relaxation on the hill. When it was accomplished, it stretched and jumped excessive within the sky, again within the water and made an enormous splash.
“It seemed like fleas had been coming off of him. However it was tadpoles. And that’s how the pond and the frogs got here to be,” Solomon stated. “There’s a whole lot of historical past on this place right here. ‘Wexliem,’ like our Wexliem Group Heart close by, means ‘house of the frogs’ in our Lummi language and our household clan is called for the frogs too.”
Solomon started studying the Lhaq’temish language whereas enrolled in Headstart at about 4-years-old. He’s been mentored by many language keepers within the Tribe, together with the late Invoice Tsi’li’xw James, hereditary chief of the Lummi individuals who died in June 2020.
“Our language like so many others — and lots of did — may have gone completely extinct if it weren’t for individuals who took the time to show us. I increase my arms as much as them,” Solomon stated.
Solomon enjoys many conventional and cultural actions in his free time. As a canoe paddler and fisherman, Solomon stated he all the time felt a connection to the water and felt known as to observe within the footsteps of these whose service had been honored on the Stommish grounds. These callings got here collectively in 2000, when on the age of 18 Solomon enlisted within the Navy.
After being medically discharged from the Navy in 2013, Solomon received his affiliate’s diploma from Northwest Indian School and later determined to run for council. He’s at the moment serving his second three-year time period on the 11-person council.
Additionally in 2013, Solomon and his spouse Denise had been married and shaped the Blackhawk Singers, a bunch of as much as 100 Lummi youth and Tribal members who carry out conventional and new songs and dances. Their daughter Cassandra, 13, performs with them. Additionally they have two sons — Evan, 29, and Tristan, 25.
“I composed about three songs, however it’s my spouse who has the ear,” Solomon stated. “We all the time have a superb time. We began the group to deliver our neighborhood collectively to have a good time and heal with music.”
Now in his second 12 months as chairman, Solomon has made a reputation for himself as a fierce protector of the Lummi folks, tradition, lands, treaty rights and the atmosphere. In numerous op-eds, Solomon has known as for motion in saving the Lummi kin — the orca and salmon.
“I realized to fish after I was about 14. I’d fish sockeye at Level Roberts with my uncle or my dad who would all the time say, ‘It’s known as ‘fishing,’ it’s not known as ‘catching.’ However nowadays, catching fish is much more of a blessing,” he stated.
“And that’s the factor about our neighborhood. That’s my brother there,” he stated pointing to a fisherman on the seaside. “We’re like household. We’re all household. We work collectively to handle our our bodies and our spirit. And salmon is such an enormous a part of that.”
Every single day, Solomon stated he worries for the way forward for the salmon, orca, atmosphere and his Tribe.
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Natasha Brennan covers Washington state tribes’ influence on our native communities, atmosphere and politics, in addition to traditions, tradition and fairness points, for McClatchy media firms in Bellingham, Olympia, Tacoma and Tri-Cities.
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“Being chairman is a really humbling expertise, however there’s days I don’t sleep typically. I’m up fascinated about every part, and COVID was particularly one in every of them — nonetheless is,” he stated.
Early on within the pandemic, Lummi Nation made robust choices in closing its Silver Reef On line casino (now open), locking down and determining how greatest to serve its folks. Solomon stated with the steering of their medical doctors, they made these choices rapidly and led the area in implementing protecting COVID measures. The Tribe additionally was a pacesetter in distributing vaccines not simply to Tribal members, however others all through the county.
“To have the ability to lead Lummi Nation by way of one thing like COVID, each day I’m decided to come back to work. I give a whole lot of credit score to our council and our medical doctors who make choices, facilitate and ensure we transfer ahead along with our Tribal neighborhood and our neighbors. That’s who we’re as Lummi folks,” Solomon stated.