The Whatcom Museum unveils permanent exhibit focused on Northwest Coast tribes

A Coast Salish woman. Photo courtesy of the Whatcom Museum.

By Stefanie Donahue

Traditions, languages and stories of the Northwest Coast people are on full display at the Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher building, located at 250 Flora Street in Bellingham.

The ongoing exhibition, titled “People of the Sea and Cedar: A Journey through the Tribal Cultures and History of the Northwest Coast,” opened July 15 and will be continually updated with rotating art and artifacts through a partnership with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.

“The Whatcom Museum hasn’t had a permanent presence of Coast Salish culture and history, past and present,” said Patricia Leach, executive director of the museum.

“Now that our state legislature has mandated the teaching of native cultures in our schools, the timing on the creation of this new gallery space couldn’t be better. The museum is excited to be enhancing the education of our local school children with the ‘People of the Sea and Cedar’ school program, which will actually take place in the new gallery.”

The exhibition offers a mix of historical and contemporary work and features Coast Salish artwork, carvings, woven blankets, handmade tools, clothing, baskets and cedar hats as well as traditional crafts created by the Northwest Coast people.

The exhibition is an extension of “People of the Sea and Cedar” educational program, which is sponsored by the museum and begins this fall.

Docent tours are offered Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays starting at 2:30 p.m. To learn more, visit whatcommuseum.org. Admission is free for The Whatcom Museum members; $10 for general; $8 for age 6-17; $5 for age 2-5; and free for age 2 and below.

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