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Lummi Island History

Why call the Island Lummi? Originally the island was called "Sa nam a o" (High Mountain). This name came from the native inhabitants, now referred to as the Lummi People. Another name used by these people was "Skallaham" who's meaning has been lost with history.

It was the Spanish explorers Dionisio Galiano and Cayetano Valdez who called the island "Isla de Pachecco". U.S. Naval Lieutenant Charles Wilkes renamed the island McLoughlin's Island. It was finally in 1853 that Lummi Island got its current name in honor of the islands original inhabitants.

Questions are still open on what the word Lummi actually means. In Chinook there is a word meaning old woman - "Lamieh". Another theory is that it is a contraction of "Tlawalames" - once the name of a village on Lopez Island. In addition there is "Wh'lah luh muhs" - a Salish word for facing each other.

As diverse as its name. Lummi Island ranges from 300 feet above sea level in the north to 1,700 feet above sea level in the south. At Otto Preserve, Lovers Bluff and Point Migley you can see exposed rock formations are fine examples of the different ways that the island was formed millions of years ago. In contrast the northern half of the island is dominated by sandstone. All resulting in the variety of scenery available to a visitor to Lummi Island.

Lummi life, then & now. Still enjoyed today are the sockeye salmon that were the mainstay of the original Lummi Island inhabitants. Even their method of fishing called "reef-net fishing" is practiced off Lummi Island in Legoe Bay. A unique ritual called "the first salmon ceremony" was practiced by the Lummi People. This ceremony, honoring the life of the salmon, was a community affair which involved the preparation and eating of the first salmon catch after which the fish bones were returned tot he water.

Changes in the Lummi population. The Lummi People's population declined over the years due to the introduction of small pox brought unwittingly by European explorers. A further decline in population was a result of more aggressive intruders with firearms. Additional changes came to the Lummis when missionaries converted them to Christianity. Soon land treaties were signed which moved the people into new professions in logging, mill work and dock work and later employment in the canneries. Homesteading brought further changes to the area natives and indian agents taught the Lummis to be farmers. Eventually the reef-net locations were abandoned due to European fishing methods intercepting the salmon.

The Lummi People have however, managed to preserve their native culture in keeping many of their customs and ceremonies alive today.

Early settlers. 1846 marked the official agreement between the US and Great Britain which made the San Juan Islands part of the United States. Major homesteading offers to adult male US Citizens increased the population of the area after the gold rush years.

Lummi Island's first settler (1871) was Christian Tuttle. He settled here after a life on the sea. Tuttle Lane, named in his honor, marks the area of his homestead. Subsequent settlers lent their names to many of Lummi Islands locations and landmarks. Some of the descendents of the original settlers still live on the island today.


Make your family's reservation TODAY, call:
Island Vacation Rentals
owned & operated by Seaside Lodging Northwest

Telephone: (360) 758-7064 or toll free (888) 758-7064
1695 Seacrest Drive, Lummi Island, WA 98262
email: info@lummi-holidays.com


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