EDISON — As the last parade floats rounded the corner of Cains Street and Gilmore Avenue at Edison’s 150th anniversary celebration Saturday, onlookers followed under sprinkling rain, laughing and smiling as they made their way toward more festivities.
For the sesquicentennial event, businesses, groups and individuals collaborated to organize a day of fun and history. Community leaders, including Tony Breckenridge, Charles Atkinson and Sarah Smith spearheaded the effort, which Smith said was “pulled together by community force” and also aimed to “open the floor to the native community.”
One of the cornerstones of the day was a welcome ceremony led by members of the Coast Salish tribes.
In an introduction, Kay Knott of Upper Skagit Tribe spoke in both English and Lushootseed, sharing stories and prayers over the crowd gathered inside the Edison Granary, a venue filled with memorabilia from decades past.
“The Samish and the Upper Skagit peoples are here as members of our community,” said Atkinson, the owner of three Edison businesses. “Today is a day of celebrating the entire community.”
Knott, along with artist Jay Bowen of Upper Skagit and Edison resident Michele Robbins of various Coast Salish tribes, focused their message on the shared history of their people and the descendants of the pioneers, or “new people.”
“I’m calling for an end to animosity and hostility between our people and the new people. We have too much in common,” Bowen said. “We are part of a legacy of thousands of years and travelers, and they all had one thing in common: to hold this land in trust ... to hold each other in trust.”
As the speakers continued, some members of the crowd held their hands to their chest, eyes brimming with tears.
“Today was about returning, in a way that could start a process in our greater community here in Bow, one of respect and communication and engagement with the First Nations, the first people here,” said Atkinson. “Their story is very much embedded in the story of the new people.”
At the end of the ceremony, Robbins and Atkinson called witnesses to accept the responsibility of being keepers of the details of the event, among them a family from Australia visiting Edison for the day.
Then, gifts were bestowed upon the speakers, including artifacts of Coast Salish people found by community members who wished to return them to their rightful owners.
“It is their story, it is their history and it is their right, not ours,” Atkinson shared with the crowd as he placed an artifact in Bowen’s hands. “That’s why I ask them humbly to take them from me.”
The crowd dispersed slowly after the ceremony finished, mingling over memories and shared history before stepping out into the rain with friends and loved ones.
“We are here together,” Knott said. “We share a love for this land, together.”
— Reporter Zoe Deal: 360-416-2139, email@example.com, Twitter: @Zoe_SVH