After the 9/11 attacks on our country, carvers from the Lummi Tribal Nation began creating totem poles of healing.
Their latest creation is a tribute to the role Native Americans played in electing President Joe Biden.
The artists say there was no blueprint for their work.
They call it the Red Road to D.C., a journey of thousands of miles across this vast nation. Its cargo is a 24-foot totem pole carved into existence at the Lummi Tribal Nation, north of Bellingham.
“And everything that is on this is all spiritually inspired,” said Douglas James. “On the top is a full moon. There’s an Indian in the moon.”
The Lummi master carver and his activist younger brother, Jewell, are descendants of a sister of Chief Seattle.
“See, he’s (the eagle) all the way coming from the moon,” said Jewell, as he walked along the totem pole, “all the way down.”
They led a team of 14 carvers, cutting into half of a 400-year-old cedar, unearthing the story of a people still fighting for the land that was once solely theirs and all its heartbreak.
“Here we have a grandmother figure,” said Jewell. “And behind her is a granddaughter she’s raising. Her hand’s painted red because her daughter’s missing.”
There are blue images, too.
“Those are the seven tears,” said Jewell. “They represent the historical trauma. Our language was taken from us, our secret sites and places were taken from us.”
All of it with one purpose.
“They’re saying, ‘If there’s an Indian in the moon, what are they praying for?’” said James. “Praying to the creator to save mother earth for the children. It’s for the children that we gotta do what we have to do.”
On this day, the totem pole has stopped at the Tulalip Reservation near Marysville, welcomed here with song and speeches.
“This is a spiritual gift that they have,” Inez Bill, a Tulalip elder, told the crowd. “And they’re sharing it with the people, open to everybody, the tribes throughout the U.S.”
The totem pole received a blessing, too.
“I pray for when it arrives, Lord God, that you’ll bless the holy ground, Lord.”
The totem pole began its journey in late April, touring the state’s 29 federally recognized tribes and points in between. Next up is its West Coast tour.
Then in mid-July, it embarks on its final destination, Washington, D.C.
They send this totem pole off each time, picking up a bit of the spirit of the tribal nations of this land, an act of protest for a people who have endured, embodying their triumphs and their tears.
“There is hope, you know,” said James. “The message is we have to come together. We’ve got to put our differences behind. We’ve got to come together with one heart and one mind.”
Perhaps we can, with one touch of this totem pole at a time.
If you’d like to see and touch this totem pole before it heads to the other Washington, it will be on display at Seattle Center beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday.
Cox Media Group