Coast Salish Days coming to Birch Bay

By Steve Guntli

Organizers of an upcoming Coast Salish Days in Birch Bay will be holding a fundraiser in support of the event.

The fundraiser will be held on Saturday, May 14 at the Te’Ti’Sen Center on exit 260 off I-5. It will include a meal and a silent auction, with several items from tribal artists and carvers for sale. Event organizers are hoping to raise $10,000 to help fund Coast Salish Days.

Coast Salish Days will be held in Birch Bay on June 25–26. The festival is intended to build community ties between the Coast Salish tribes and the mainland residents. Lummi filmmaker Freddie Lane is helping spearhead the event, alongside Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce president Randy Parten and Lummi Youth Academy head Darrell Hillaire.

Coast Salish Days began in July 2007 in Bellingham’s Boulevard Park. It was a small event then, with a few arts and crafts and vendor booths and a small ceremony to commemorate a canoe landing.

Lane said the event hasn’t been held consistently, due to the conflicting schedules of the organizers, but with the help of the Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce, this year the event will be bigger than ever.

Lane said he envisions the event as a fun opportunity to bring communities together.

“Birch Bay is one of the largest ancient sites for our tribe, and it’s always been very important to us,” he said.

The event kicks off on Saturday, June 25 with a parade, sand sculpture competition, volleyball tournament and tug-of-war matches on the beach.

In the evening, when the tide comes in, the canoe families of the Coast Salish Tribes will paddle up to the shore, and will be welcomed with a free dinner, open to everyone in attendance.

“I really like the idea of the free dinner,” Lane said. “That’s a tradition in our culture, to welcome new friends with
a big meal.”

Cherokee comedian Mitch Factor and Gerald Charlie & the Black Owl Blues Band are slated to perform after the meal. There will also be a film festival featuring some of the finest tribal filmmakers working today.

The evening will close with a fireworks display over Birch Bay.

Lane said Sunday’s events would be more laid-back, with a greater emphasis on cultural education. Singers will perform traditional tribal songs and dances, and storytellers will share ancient folklore about the tribes and the region.

For more information on the event or the fundraiser, contact Lane at 360/223-2047 or visit facebook.com/Coast-Salish-Days.

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