The installation ceremony for the Arch of Healing and Reconciliation, a granite monument honoring Whatcom County’s immigrant communities, will be Saturday, April 21, 2018, 10:30 a.m. to noon at Bellingham’s City Hall, 210 Lottie St.
Sabah Randhawa, president of Western Washington University, will be the keynote speaker at the ceremony, which will mark the installation of the arch monument honoring immigrants to the Pacific Northwest from China, India, and Japan. It is a public event and everyone is encouraged to come and be a part of the celebration which will include short dance and choral performances and some light refreshments.
The arch will also recognize all immigrants who have come to America since the 1800’s seeking better opportunities for themselves and their families through hard work and determination. “There are millions of first-generation immigrants in United States from all over the world today, who are serving this nation at all levels and contributing to our nation’s wellbeing. We recognize their contributions and welcome them in our community,” said Satpal Sidhu, a Whatcom County Councilmember and Chair of the Arch of Healing organization.
The arch, 12 feet high and made of 10 tons of solid red granite from India, is the first part of a multifaceted project to honor and remember the contributions, sacrifices and bravery of the community’s immigrants.
Bellingham has a long history of immigrants traveling through on their way up and down the West Coast. Many have settled here and have made significant contributions to the community, but the community hasn’t always been a welcoming place for immigrants. Chinese, Indian and Japanese immigrants, in particular, were targeted and forcibly removed from the community.
The goal of all facets of the project: to create teaching and learning opportunities for future generations in the hope of avoiding additional anti-immigrant sentiment and violence.
Located on the corner of Lottie and North Commercial streets next to the lawn behind the Bellingham Public Library, the arch includes bronze plaques with dates and short descriptions of three episodes in Whatcom County in which immigrants were targeted for removal: Chinese Americans in 1885, Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus from India in 1907, and Japanese Americans in 1942.
The base of the arch will have 18-inch-square black granite tiles with “Welcome” in seven languages, with special recognition being made to Lummi, Nooksack and other local Indian tribes.
The group of Whatcom County residents who make up the Arch Committee continues to raise funds for two more elements of this initiative: a scholarship fund to help children of first-generation immigrants go to college, and an annual Ethnic Food Festival in Bellingham on Labor Day.
The committee plans to raise about $2 million, with the bulk of the funds going toward the scholarship fund, which will provide significant educational opportunities in higher education for new immigrant families and their children. Sidhu explained, “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.”
The work to build the arch has been led by a group of Whatcom County residents, including the Lynden Sikh Temple, an initial funder of the project with $50,000 in matching funds. The Whatcom Community Foundation, which also pledged $25,000 in matching funds, is the fiscal sponsor for the program and all donations are tax-deductible. As an in-kind donation Ram Construction is preparing the site and foundation and is installing the arch.
Plans for the arch began in 2007 when members of the Lynden Sikh Temple began thinking of ways to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 1907 forced removal of Sikh timber mill workers from Bellingham. Over time, plans expanded to include commemorating the expulsions of Chinese and Japanese Americans as well. And plans grew even further to establish a lasting monument to honor the community’s history of immigrants with a higher education scholarship and an annual food festival.