‘I couldn’t believe what I was seeing’: Reward offered for return of stolen 11-foot Lummi Nation totem pole

BELLINGHAM, Wash. — A cash reward is being offered for the safe return of a stolen 11-foot tall totem pole that weighs over 300 pounds. The pole took one year for a Lummi Nation master carver to complete and was supposed to be installed in front of a Bellingham business that provides communications technology for the tribe.

Surveillance shows two men working on what appeared to be a well-planned heist on April 30, and it was the last time anyone saw the sacred Native American work of art, which had just been finished by master carver and famous Native American artist Felix Solomon.

The totem pole was intended to be spiritually empowering.

“It was going to right here in front of the building at this intersection that sees a lot of traffic every day,” said Ray Poorman, of the San Juan Cable and Internet company, which commissioned the project.

“The totem pole shows a man holding up a salmon, handing it off to an eagle and taking it to the spirit world,” Poorman said. “So he entitled it communication because our business is communication and supplying internet services and fiber optics to the tribal area that was unserved. The thieves knew what they were looking for. They came up. They cut the lock. They got the gate open,” he said.

At one point in the video, the two men struggle to support the heavy weight of the totem — and they let it drop into the bushes and onto a hand cart they’d brought to haul it away. Moments later, they start wheeling the giant heavy work of cultural art through the parking lot and disappear down the street.

“My jaw hit the ground,” Poorman said. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. They were hauling it away. Never in a million years would I think someone would steal a piece of art like that. And how are they going to get away with an 11-foot totem pole?”

One of the suspects was arrested while pushing the empty handcart, according to Bellingham police. But the pole is still gone. Poorman is offering a reward. He said justice means finding the art piece.

“I’m not about taking somebody, throwing them in jail and throwing away the key,” Poorman said. “We want the totem pole back.”

He said the work of art should stand forever in tribute to the artist and the Nation he represents.

“It means the world to us and to the community,” Poorman said.

To find out more about the reward for information leading to the recovery of the pole, click here.