By Stefanie Donahue
Last week, local officials and tribal members took part in a signing ceremony to finalize the transfer of about 2 acres of land from the city of Blaine to Lummi Nation.
The ceremony took place in the morning on June 29 and marked the final step in a years-long process to transfer 80,354 square feet of land to Lummi Nation after human remains and Lummi artifacts were removed from the site of a construction project on Semiahmoo spit in the late ’90s.
“Today is not about any of the mistakes that have been made over the last 18 years, but rather the hard work and commitment to do our best and make things right,” read a statement from Lummi chairman Timothy Ballew II in The Bellingham Herald. “We only pray that we do right by the ancestors.”
Last February, Blaine City Council voted unanimously to approve supplemental terms and conditions to a settlement agreement with Lummi Nation; the milestone vote left only a few steps remaining before the final land transfer could take place.
The agreement dates back to 2001 and was a result of a project to expand the city’s existing wastewater treatment facility on Semiahmoo spit. Crews from Golder Associates were contracted for the project and allegedly failed to notify Lummi Nation after digging and removing the remains and artifacts from the site of the former Lummi Village.
Eventually, the tribe filed a lawsuit against the company and settled for $3.5 million; an additional $750,000 was divided between its members. A reburial effort followed. The city later decommissioned the plant and relocated its wastewater treatment facility to Marine Drive.
“For me, it was just really gratifying to see this come to a conclusion,” said Blaine Public Works director Ravyn Whitewolf. “It’s really set a standard for how construction occurs in our area.”
Moving forward, the city will maintain ownership over several easements as well as another 67,070 square feet of the land. In an interview with The Bellingham Herald, Ballew II said Lummi Nation is committed to putting the land into trust and has plans to commemorate it as a heritage site.
Ballew II, Blaine mayor Harry Robinson and Lummi Nation hereditary chief Bill James all addressed the crowd. Lummi Blackhawk Singers were also in attendance for the ceremony.