Bellingham Council: Change Indian St. to Billy Frank Jr. St.

Bellingham City Council favors changing Indian Street to Billy Frank Jr. Street. | PHILIP A. DWYER The Bellingham Herald
Bellingham City Council favors changing Indian Street to Billy Frank Jr. Street. | PHILIP A. DWYER The Bellingham Herald


BY SAMANTHA WOHLFEIL, The Bellingham Herald


BELLINGHAM – Indian Street will likely be renamed Billy Frank Jr. Street, after the Bellingham City Council asked staff to make the change.

Council member Terry Bornemann requested the change, which was supported by the full council at its Monday, June 15, meeting.

Council member Roxanne Murphy, a member of the Nooksack Indian Tribe, said she supported changing the name of the street as much as she supported honoring Billy Frank Jr., whose activism in the 1960s and ’70s led to a major strengthening of tribal fishing rights under the Boldt court ruling. The decision recognized Washington tribes’ rights to half the fish harvests under their 1850s-era treaties.

“It comes with a bit of heartache that we have a street named Indian Street, because that means so many different things to so many different people,” Murphy said during an afternoon council meeting June 15. “So many people identify with it in Indian Country, and others detest it. This is just as much to me about getting rid of the name Indian as it is about honoring Billy Frank.”

Frank, a member of the Nisqually Indian Tribe, was arrested dozens of times during the “Fish Wars,” when he and other Native Americans asserted their treaty rights and refused to obtain state licenses to fish. He died May 5, 2014.

Indian Street has had its name since at least the beginning of the 20th century. It was chosen as part of an alphabetical sequence of New Whatcom street names because it starts with an “I,” although how much deliberation went into the name no one can say, according to Jeff Jewell, historian and photo curator at Whatcom Museum.

Bellingham Fire Department’s Rob Wilson is in charge of an addressing committee that oversees such name changes. The committee is made up of representatives from the police department, fire, dispatch centers, and the planning, public works and permitting departments.

The committee was generally supportive of the name change, Wilson told the council, but did have a few concerns: 147 addresses — 110 apartments, 33 houses and four businesses — would be affected by the name change, and any of those people could appeal to the hearing examiner if they disagree with the proposed change.

Whatcom Educational Credit Union owns two buildings on Indian Street, but neither is open to the public, so the change wouldn’t affect the credit union much, Marketing Manager Kessa Volland wrote in an email.

“Our buildings on Indian are all behind-the-scenes departments and storage at this point,” she wrote. “I have to say I’m relieved we won’t have to change brochures/location listings on any of our materials.”

The change also would carry costs to change the street signs, and to have staff prepare and send letters to every address affected. A rough estimate put the bill at $20,000 to $30,000, Wilson said.

Another of the committee’s concerns had to do with the naming structure for that part of town.

“Indian Street today does fit a historical naming theme that is alphabetical,” Wilson said. “The change would disrupt that theme.”

The street-name sequence has not been completely alphabetical since the early 1900s. It starts with Old Town’s Army Street, which was never built; followed by Bay Street; then Canoe, which was changed to Commercial Street in 1904; and then Dock Street, which was changed to Cornwall Avenue in 1923, Jewell wrote in an email.

“Railroad Avenue was a train right-of-way predating the street grid, so it doesn’t figure in,” he wrote. “Elk Street, which was the ‘E,’ was changed to State Street in 1926 so (it) doesn’t work. After that it’s smooth alphabetical sailing: Forest, Garden, High, Indian, Jersey, Key, Liberty …”

Wilson said staff members would probably start sending notices to residents within about two weeks.



Reach Samantha Wohlfeil at 360-715-2274 or Read the Politics Blog at and follow her on Twitter at @BhamPolitics.

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King County Council Remembers 1865 Exclusion of Native Americans

Courtesy kingcounty.govCouncilmembers are joined by representatives of the region’s Indigenous Communities as the Council declared Feb. 7, 2015 “Native American Expulsion Remembrance Day.” Claudia Kauffman, Intergovernmental Affairs with the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, is holding the proclamation.
Councilmembers are joined by representatives of the region’s Indigenous Communities as the Council declared Feb. 7, 2015 “Native American Expulsion Remembrance Day.” Claudia Kauffman, Intergovernmental Affairs with the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, is holding the proclamation.


Richard Walker, Indian Country Today


It was 150 years ago that Seattle’s first city council banned Native Americans from entering the city. But the pain from that act continued to be felt by succeeding generations as bigotry and injustice followed.

The exclusion ordinance was enacted in 1865. The following year, the local representative in Congress, Arthur Denny, opposed the establishment of a reservation for the Duwamish, further bolstering the Duwamish diaspora. Twenty-eight years later, in 1894, settlers burned to the ground the last Duwamish longhouse in the area. Today, the Duwamish Tribe is still fighting to restore its relationship with the United States, with whom it signed the Treaty of Point Elliott of 1855.

The bigotry and injustice of Seattle’s exclusion ordinance was “a lesson that generations thereafter continue, unfortunately, to repeat,” King County Councilman Rod Dembowski said on February 2. “We had the Chinese Exclusion Act [of 1882]. The Japanese American community was excluded in the [Second World] War. Hopefully we don’t ever see that again.”

The King County Council took a step to help heal the pain. The council proclaimed February 7, the 150th anniversary of the Seattle exclusion ordinance, as Native American Expulsion Remembrance Day.

Councilman Larry Gossett, who with Dembowski introduced the proclamation, noted that the 1865 exclusion ordinance came just 13 years after Si’ahl, the leader of the Duwamish people for whom the city of Seattle was named, welcomed the first settlers and helped them survive here. Exclusion “was extremely hurtful to the Native Americans who had for thousands of years made this their homeland,” Gossett said.

Several local Native American leaders spoke at the proclamation hearing, thanking the King County Council for the effort to promote healing and understanding.

“It is so vital and important to remember our history, whether good or bad, whether positive or extremely negative,” said Claudia Kauffman, Nez Perce, a former state senator. “We need to make sure everyone knows about our history, about our strengths, about our talents and resilience,” the latter a reference to the fact that Native Americans still live in Seattle, are educated in Seattle, are involved in Seattle, and raise their families in Seattle. “Seattle and King County [have] a rich history, and we need to celebrate it and celebrate it every day,” she said.

Chris Stearns, Navajo, former chairman of the Seattle Human Rights Commission who now chairs the state Gambling Commission, said, “What you are doing is incredibly important. As the senator said, Native Americans are here. The city, the county were built on the foundation that is Native America. I’d also like to say that we are the future. There are some wonderful young leaders and young elected officials [in the Seattle area].” The proclamation “really means a lot to us. And I think it’s something the council can truly build upon.”

Matt Remle, Lakota, an educator and journalist, offered a greeting in Lakota and acknowledged the Duwamish people, “on whose lands we are on today … I too am a guest in their lands as a Lakota person.”

Remle said the proclamation “goes well with the recent actions by the Seattle City Council to establish Indigenous Peoples Day on the second Monday of every October and efforts by the Seattle School Board to bring forth the ‘Since Time Immemorial’ Tribal Sovereignty Curriculum. It fits well with trying to educate about the misinformation — and [the] histories that a lot of us didn’t get in our schools.”

It’s not the first time King County has taken a stand to promote healing and correct injustice. In 1986, the County Council renamed the county in honor of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The county was originally named in honor of William Rufus de Vane King, a pro-slavery U.S. senator from Alabama who served as U.S. vice president in 1853.



Changes on Lummi Nation Council

Richard Walker, Indian Country Today

Cheryl Kinley-Sanders is the new vice chairwoman of the Lummi Nation. She was elected to the post by her council colleagues after the swearing in of new council members on November 4.

Kinley-Sanders, elected to the council in 2013, is vice chairwoman of the American Indian Health Commission for Washington State. She is also a commissioner of Whatcom County Fire Protection District No. 8.

Rita Jefferson and Celina Phair were elected November 1 to the Lummi Indian Business Council, the governing body of the Lummi Nation. They were elected to positions A and B, succeeding Darrell Hillaire, who chose not to seek reelection, and Bernie Thomas. Tim Ballew II and Jay Julius were reelected to positions C and D.

After the oaths of office were administered, the council voted to retain Ballew as chairman, and elected Kinley-Sanders vice chairwoman and Jefferson treasurer.

Others continuing on the council: Cliff Cultee, position E; Henry Cagey, position F; Johnny Felix, position G; Julie Finkbonner, position H; Shasta Cano-Martin, position I; Cheryl Sanders, position J; and Steven Toby, position K.

The Lummi Indian Business Council is influential in the Northwest. The Lummi reservation comprises 21,000 acres– including uplands and tidelands on the Lummi Peninsula and Portage Island – but Lummi exercises cultural, environmental and political influence throughout its historical territory, which includes the San Juan Islands. The Lummi Nation has more than 5,000 citizens, 78 percent of whom live on or near the reservation boundaries.

Lummi Nation economic enterprises include Silver Reef Hotel Casino Spa, with 105 guest rooms, restaurants, and a convention and event center; Fisherman’s Cove Marina, home of the largest fishing fleet in the region; and Gateway Center, home of Gateway Café, Salish Arts Market, and Seafood Market. The Lummi Community Development Financial Institution provides opportunities for housing and business development through loan products, financial education, and business coaching.

The Lummi Nation has a Sovereignty and Treaty Protection Office, which is at the forefront of efforts to protect cultural resources and the environment; and the Lummi Natural Resources Department manages fisheries and forestry, operates finfish and shellfish hatcheries, and is exploring clean energy development.

“We’re leaders on a national and international level – climate change, GWE (General Welfare Exclusion Act), taxation and fisheries issues,” Cano-Martin said in an earlier interview.