PORT ANGELES — A totem pole depicting sacred tribal symbols received blessings in Port Angeles on Tuesday before its journey this summer to Washington, D.C.
Members of the Lower Elwha Klallam, Jamestown S’Klallam, Makah, Port Gamble S’Klallam and Hoh tribes were on hand for a welcoming ceremony for the 24-foot, 8-inch Sacred Sites Totem Pole at City Pier.
The totem pole, which was recently carved from a 400-year-old red cedar at Lummi Nation’s House of Tears near Bellingham, depicts a diving eagle, a wolf, a grandmother medicine woman, the blue waters of a river and a child reaching out from a cage.
Sacred Sites, also celebrated in an April 24 ceremony in Port Townsend, will travel to Washington, D.C.’s National Museum of the American Indian this summer, making hundreds of stops along the way.
It will be presented to the Biden administration for appointing Deb Haaland, the first American Indian to serve in the cabinet.
A crowd of about 150 packed the Port Angeles City Pier for Tuesday’s event. The gathering was sponsored by the North Olympic Peninsula Broads & Bros.
“I just really appreciate our S’Klallam relatives,” said Phreddie Lane of the Lummi Nation, road manager and documentary filmmaker for the totem pole’s journey.
“We yield in a good way, thanking each of you, thanking the Great Spirit and the ancestors that are standing amongst you here.”
Lane acknowledged Lower Elwha Tribal Chairwoman Frances Charles, former Hoh Tribe chairwoman Mary Leitka and Port Gamble S’Klallam elders and others at the ceremony.
“We raise our hands to you,” he said.
Mark Charles of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe spoke of the many Klallam villages on Port Angeles Harbor and tribal villages on the Salish Sea.
“Our history, our culture all come from these sacred sites,” Charles said.
Frances Charles remembered Lower Elwha and Lummi Nation tribal members who had recently died.
An environmental and social justice rally was scheduled to take place after the ceremony. The totem pole was scheduled for stops later Monday at Lake Crescent and the Makah Tribe.
Lane said his grandmother told of a sea dragon that lives in Lake Crescent, connected to the Strait of Juan de Fuca through a subterranean tunnel.
“We’re going to go pay our respects to the sacred lake there,” Lane said.
The theme of the totem pole’s journey to D.C. by way of Los Angeles is “Our Shared Responsibility,” as in the need to protect and restore this country’s lands and waters.
Stops are planned at the Snake River dams and at such sacred sites as Chaco Canyon in New Mexico and Standing Rock in North Dakota.
Onlookers held signs at the Port Angeles ceremony calling for the breaching of the lower Snake River dams.
Songs were played before the totem pole’s delayed arrival, one of which contained the lyrics: “It’s time to free the Snake, no more BS. If you don’t free the Snake, we call BS.”
Several attendees wore orca whale costumes to protest the lower Snake River dams, which have been blamed for declining salmon runs and the plight of the Southern Resident orca.
The Sacred Sites Totem Pole is expected to arrive at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in late July and return to Washington state in August.
Port Angeles was the 49th city, Native American village or sacred site where the totem pole had been, Lane said.
Sacred Sites’ main carvers were Jewell James, known to his Lummi tribe as Se Sealth, and his older brother Douglas James, known as Sit ki kadem.
The totem pole was transported onto Port Angeles City Pier on a flatbed trailer as Lower Elwha and Jamestown S’Klallam drummers performed ceremonial songs.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at [email protected].