PORT ANGELES — Three Lower Elwha Klallam tribal leaders met with Port Angeles artist Cory Ench to view the “I’e’nis/Ennis Creek” mural that Ench painted — and recently refurbished — at City Pier.
“It’s amazing,” said Wendy Sampson, a Klallam language teacher, during the Friday afternoon gathering.
“It’s like you could walk right into it. You could walk into history.”
One half of the mural that graces the side of the Feiro Marine Life Center in Port Angeles depicts a scene from I’e’nis, the Klallam village near the mouth of Ennis Creek, in the 1840s.
A second scene depicts the early days of the Puget Sound Cooperative Colony, which settled at Ennis Creek in the late 1800s.
The highly-detailed, 1998 mural shows a thriving Klallam village with nearly 50 tribal members, 15 canoes and seven buildings near a lush forest with Mount Baker in the background and a bald eagle overhead.
Tribal members were used as models for many of the subjects, including Alfred Charles, Ramona Sampson and the late Michael Langland.
“I just like how (Ench) used the real people, real tribal members in there,” said George Charles of the Lower Elwha Tribal Council.
Ench recently completed the rehab of “I’e’nis/Ennis Creek” as part of a an estimated $45,600 three-mural summer restoration project led by the Nor’wester Rotary Club of Port Angeles.
The club hired Ench to touch-up, re-paint and apply layers protective coating to the “MV Kalakala” and “Sluicing the Hogback” murals off Laurel Street in downtown Port Angeles and the “I’e’nis/Ennis Creek” mural on the pier.
“Good job,” Lower Elwha Klallam Tribal Chairwoman Frances Charles told Ench on Friday.
Frances Charles said the “I’e’nis/Ennis Creek” mural represents the growing recognition of Klallam language and culture.
“It brings the culture and the history and the heritage alive, not only here but nationally and internationally,” she said.
Frances Charles credited the tribe’s elders for teaching the Klallam language to new generations of tribal members.
A sign will be added to the “I’e’nis/Ennis Creek” mural that will explain the Klallam territory and describe the village that existed about a mile east of the pier.
“I think it’s really neat that the language is spreading off the reservation, with the park down the street and on these murals,” Sampson said.
Sampson translated Pebble Beach Park to sŋaʔŋáʔant cáwŋən ʔəssaqɬúŋt as part of the renaming of West End Park in both English and Klallam languages.
The Port Angeles City Council changed the name to Pebble Beach Park in both languages in March, the result of a large grassroots campaign.
Several street signs in downtown Port Angeles also use the Klallam variation.
Ench was painting the “I’e’nis/Ennis Creek” mural during the 1997 Tribal Canoe Journey. He drew inspiration from canoes from tribes around the Salish Sea, including the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe’s “Warrior” canoe, that landed on Hollywood Beach nearby.
“I love the canoes,” Ench said while meeting with the tribal leaders.
“They just have such an elegant shape to them.”
Most of the tribal members who posed for the mural 22 years ago wore authentic cedar garments.
“It looks so real,” Charles said of the attire.
John Brewer, Nor’wester Rotary Mural Committee chairman and retired Peninsula Daily News publisher and editor, said Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe was a major sponsor of the mural restoration project.
“We couldn’t be doing this project without the Lower Elwha’s assistance,” Brewer said while gathered with the tribal leaders Friday.
Ench said the tribe’s $10,000 donation “really went towards doing all these murals, not just this one.”
Now that he is finished restoring the “I’e’nis/Ennis Creek” mural, Ench is now working full time on “Sluicing,” the largest of the murals at 94 feet long and 25 feet tall.
“Ench is using a new, high-tech anti-UV/water repellent/anti-graffiti sealant,” Brewer said in a email.
“Re-applications every five to seven years should keep the murals bright and undamaged for 50 years — or more.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].