The Lummi Nation held its First Salmon Ceremony yesterday. The Bellingham Herald covered it and has a photo gallery.

From the Bellingham Herald:

Lummi Natural Resources Director Merle Jefferson told the gathering that the tribe is working in cooperation with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to bolster the meager spring chinook salmon run that is netted each year in limited numbers for the annual ceremonial meal. The spring chinook are the first salmon to return to the Nooksack River each year.

Jefferson said tribal and state fisheries workers are capturing the juvenile fish in the river system for rearing and spawning at tribal and state hatcheries, in hopes that more fish will survive to breed that way. An increasing number of young fish can then be released to bolster the natural spawning in the river.

Jefferson said 32,000 young fish were released through the program in 2012, and the goal for 2013 is 200,000.

“There is some hope that we’re going to build back this sacred fish,” Jefferson said.

Juanita Jefferson, one of the official witnesses to the ceremony, was one of several speakers who pointed out the central role that salmon and the ceremony play in Lummi Nation’s identity as a people.

“The First Salmon ceremony shows us everything, right here,” she said. “We begin anew. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s hard, but we begin anew.”

View more pictures on Flickr and watch a video here: