Bellingham monument honours Sikh immigrant community

Whatcom County will soon be the home of the Arch of Healing and Reconciliation monument. The groundbreaking will take place at 10 am on September 4.

The 12-foot-high red granite arch will be located on the corner of Lottie and North Commercial streets on the lawn behind the Bellingham Public Library. There will be bronze plaques detailing some of the immigrants targeted for removal: Chinese Americans in 1885, Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus from India in 1907, and Japanese Americans in 1942.

The arch’s base will have 18-inch-square black granite tiles with “Welcome” in multiple languages. It will recognize the Lummi and Nooksack tribes.

“The historical legacy in Bellingham and Whatcom County of intolerance and hostility towards native peoples, African Americans, and immigrants is now being recognized and transformed with community initiatives that demonstrate respect, cooperation, and solidarity,” says Paul Englesberg, a local historian and member of Arch committee.

Lynden Sikh Temple has led the initial fundraiser project. The temple has pledge $50,000 in matching funds for the project. The Whatcom Community Foundation (WCF), the fiscal sponsor for the program, also pledged $25,000 in matching funds at their July board meeting.

“We believe the best way to honor our ancestors is to educate our future generations. While the granite memorial will be a symbolic reminder about our history, we consider this a learning moment for us all Americans to be vigilant so that such events never happen in the future,” says Satpal Sidhu, who is a Whatcom County Council member and Chair of the Arch of Healing organization.

In 2007, the Lynden Sikh Temple wanted to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 1907 forced removal of Sikh timber mill workers from Bellingham, so they began planning to build the arch. Plans later included commemorating the expulsions of Chinese and Japanese Americans.

Installation for the project will be in April 2018.

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