PORT TOWNSEND — A diving eagle, a wolf, a grandmother medicine woman, the blue waters of a river, a child reaching out from a cage: These are the symbols on the newly carved totem pole to appear here between 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday.
The 24-foot, 8-inch cedar pole, carved at the Lummi Nation’s House of Tears, will stop at Pope Marine Park, 603 Water St., for blessings on its way across the United States.
The public is encouraged to visit during an open house with carver Jewell Praying Wolf James during the first hour.
Then, from noon till 1:30 p.m., spiritual and municipal leaders including Kate Lore of the Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, pastor Paul Heins of First Presbyterian Church and Mayor Michelle Sandoval will speak.
Members of local tribes, including the Jamestown S’Klallam, Port Gamble S’Klallam and Lower Elwha Klallam, have been invited to join the welcoming ceremony.
“Our Shared Responsibility: A Totem Pole Journey” is the name of the tour that includes the pole and its family of carvers, and Port Townsend is the first Pacific Northwest stop on the itinerary.
This wasn’t part of the original plan, said road manager Freddie Lane. But James advocated for a Northwest leg on which he could introduce the pole and its symbols.
Then Lane heard from Debra Ellers, a local activist hoping to bring the pole to Port Townsend.
“I said, ‘I have the 24th open,’ and she said, ‘Oh, my God,’ ” Lane recalled, adding that the pole’s next stop after Port Townsend is Coupeville. Its schedule, while still taking shape, includes visits to Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma later this month and the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe in May.
“The first thing I did was call and make a reservation on the ferry” for the truck bearing the pole, said Ellers, who belongs to the Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship’s Native Connections Action Group, a sponsor of the totem pole’s visit.
Other sponsors include the North Olympic Orca Pod, QUUF’s Green Sanctuary action group and the North Olympic Peninsula chapter of the Great Old Broads for Wilderness.
The totem pole’s journey highlights sacred lands and waters across this continent: the Snake River through Idaho, where tribes have long sought removal of the four dams blocking salmon passage; Bear’s Ears National Monument in Utah; Chaco Canyon in New Mexico; the Missouri River at Fort Randall Dam and Standing Rock in North Dakota.
After visiting those sites and others, the “Shared Responsibility” trek is scheduled to reach Washington, D.C., in late July. The round trip covers some 7,400 miles and will finish back in Washington state during the first week of August.
On Thursday afternoon, James summarized his hopes for the journey.
“The whole idea is to awaken in all the people that the world around us deserves to be protected,” he said.
“Our children’s future is at risk. We must consider whether or not we’re genetically selfish, or are we human beings who genuinely care about the world around us and all living things?
“We all came from the Earth,” James said.
“We just kind of lost our way. It’s important that we all believe we can be positive role models,” demonstrating our guardianship of places such as the Grand Canyon, the Black Hills and the Columbia River.
The natural world is full of wonders, added James, 68. Now is the time to step up, he said, wherever you are.
“Prayers are good, but if we don’t take action, we’re just fooling ourselves,” he said.
James believes every sermon, whatever the house of worship, should begin with a single truth: “All things are sacred.”
“Then go on, preach what you want to preach … but at least give your children a sense of appreciation they are living in a world created by something bigger than us.”
The “Shared Responsibility” totem pole, though shaped in the Lummi Nation’s House of Tears carving shed, is not sponsored by the Lummi tribe but rather by private donors. Information about the trip and its supporters can be found at redroadtoDC.org.
Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected] news.com.