Formally known as the Lummi Nation Services Organization, the Lhaq’temish Foundation was founded in 1997 with the mission to preserve “Nilh Xwenang Tse Schelangen Etse Nexw Xwlemi (This is Our Lummi Way of Life)” meaning “a healthy, giving, and prosperous community to strengthen our people through cultural, social, and economic abundance.”
Candice Wilson’s involvement with the Lhaq’temish Foundation began more than 10 years ago, when she served on the Lummi Indian Business Council. Today, she is the executive director of the organization.
The foundation has played a major role during the pandemic. On March 3, the COVID-19 Emergency Declaration was presented to the Lummi Indian Business Council. Because of disproportionate healthcare disparities that affect indigenous people, Tribal Nations are especially at risk of being exposed to COVID-19.
“We declared this emergency before the state of Washington. We took the lead. We weren’t waiting,” Wilson says. “We declared shelter-in-place ahead of the state as well.”
For their swift response and preventative measures to COVID-19, Lummi Nation’s doctors were nationally recognized by publications like The Seattle Times and The Guardian.
As tribal leaders, the public health team, and emergency management organized, Wilson was tasked with responding to the pandemic’s economic effects. The community was facing drastic budget cuts to programs and services and financial struggles from job loss.
Wilson did not hesitate to say yes when Mauri Ingram, CEO of Whatcom Community Foundation, asked to partner with the Lhaq’temish Foundation to launch a fundraising campaign. Boosted by media exposure, funds began to trickle in.
To unify everything the Lhaq’temish Foundation has to offer, the Lummi Resilience Team was developed. Hosted by Project Aware under the Lummi Behavioral Health Department and moderated by Wilson, the team meets every week to organize, launch, and conduct events hosted by programs and services under the administration of the Lummi Indian Business Board.
“The primary purpose of Lummi Resilience was to build on our strengths and resilience together,” Wilson says. “We can’t do it alone. [We} work on our projects together in promoting our health and wellness because this COVID-19 fatigue in safety and practices that we have to conduct for ourselves was getting exhausting.”
Whether virtual or in-person with proper social distancing measures, every event has had at least 300 people in attendance.
To promote staying fit and staying healthy, the foundation hosted a socially distanced 5k for the Lummi Fitness Center, Race for the Cure triathlon, as well as a drive-thru health and wellness fair. For students, they held a graduation recognition and a back-to-school bash, where students could take home donated school supplies. To reduce food insecurity, they’ve provided community garden boxes where people can grow their own produce.
If you want to donate or learn more about the Lhaq’temish Foundation, visit their website at lhaqtemish.org.
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