And when the extra food finally arrived in the grocery boxes, it wasn’t what Green-Trottier had hoped for. She wanted to see more variety and traditional items like yeast or spices to make the food box more complete. Because of that and the extensive work it took to add the items, many tribes didn’t participate, Green-Trottier said.

The pilot project changed everything for the Lummi tribe. Program manager Billy Mteba bought 5,000 pounds of salmon in his first purchase. A second purchase was made a few weeks later as the local fishermen had nowhere to sell their catch.

“If you can control the market, you can feed the community and increase the livelihood of the fishermen,” she said.

For his next project, Metteba wants to add a live tank to the Lumi food distribution center so that crab can be added to produce boxes. And perhaps eventually the boxes could include deer and elk, other traditionally eaten foods.

“It brings a sense of pride, and it’s really exciting for these elders to see these traditional foods instead of chicken and beef,” Metheba added.

Back in Lumi Bay, the local fisherman Misanes watches a hungry seal head Bob in the waves, happy to follow Misanes’ snack.

“Our grocery store is right here,” Missans said, pointing to the water outside the Lummi Reservation. “We don’t know how rich we are with this seafood.”

This story was originally written for InvestigateWest on December 7, 2022 and is reprinted here with permission. InvestGate West is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to investigative journalism in the Pacific Northwest. Visit to sign up for weekly updates.

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