Lummi Nation Totem Pole Stops in San Juans, Heads East

Posted May 18, 2021 at 5:30 am by

Con­tributed Photo/Stephanie Buf­fum. The totem pole in line for the ferry.

By Stephanie Buf­fum, coor­di­na­tor, San Juan Islands Stop-over

Many thanks to over 300 islanders, stu­dents, and com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers who attend­ed May 10–11 House of Tears Carvers’ totem pole bless­ings on San Juan Island/Whelalq, Shaw Island/Sqemenen, Orcas Island/Swalex and Lopez Island/Swaletch.

Lum­mi Nation mem­bers from the House of Tears Carvers Se Sealth (Jew­ell Pray­ing Wolf James), Sit ki kadem (Dou­glas James) Siam’el wit, Sul ka dub (Fred­die Lane), Heather Mis­anes, Jew­ell Rid­ley-James, Gabriela and Kay­den Norgue­ria unit­ed our com­mu­ni­ty in a spe­cial way and called on each of us to step for­ward to pro­tect what is sacred.

Con­tributed Photo/Stephanie Buffum.

The May 10 stopover on San Juan Island/Whelalq includ­ed vis­its to sacred sites and cer­e­monies at British Camp/ Pe’pi’ow’elh where trib­al elder Rosie Cay­ou James and Mitchell Bay Band descen­dent Lisa Nash Lawrence wel­comed the Carvers with fam­i­ly members.

On May 11, the totem pole trav­eled from Shaw Island/Sqemenen to Orcas Island/Swalex to the top of Mt. Constitution.

Over 100 peo­ple par­tic­i­pat­ed in a cer­e­mo­ny at Madrona Point/Ts’el xwi sen, a Lhaq’temish Vil­lage. Over 100 peo­ple attend­ed the cer­e­mo­ny at Odlin Coun­ty Park on Lopez Island/Swaletch.

A group of Shaw res­i­dents trav­eled with the totem pole on the inter-island fer­ry between islands.

Con­tributed Photo/Stephanie Buffum.

Dur­ing each event, mas­ter carv­er Se Sealth, Jew­ell James, described the inspi­ra­tion, dreams and mean­ing of each carved fig­ure and paint­ing on the totem pole: a pray­ing native per­son in moon, miss­ing and mur­dered native women, orca, Chi­nook salmon, sea wolf, bear, eagle, grand­moth­er, tears, and a caged child— a ref­er­ence to chil­dren present­ly incar­cer­at­ed at the U.S.-Mexico border.

In addi­tion to the Islands, the totem pole, carved by a sin­gle 400-year-old cedar tree, will make stops through­out the Northwest.

It will begin its cross-coun­try U.S. tour to sacred sites next month, stop­ping at Nez Perce tra­di­tion­al lands; Bears Ears Nation­al Mon­u­ment in Utah; the Grand Canyon; Cha­co Canyon, New Mex­i­co; the Black Hills of South Dako­ta; and the Mis­souri Riv­er, at the cross­ing of the Dako­ta Access Pipeline, where thou­sands protest­ed evok­ing an urgent call to pro­tect sacred lands, waters, women and chil­dren of Indige­nous people.

This fall, the pole will be fea­tured at the Smith­son­ian Nation­al Muse­um of the Amer­i­can Indi­an. A spe­cial exhi­bi­tion was devel­oped by The Nat­ur­al His­to­ry Muse­um and House of Tears Carvers at the Lum­mi Nation.

You can sup­port this jour­ney with a dona­tion to the Lhaq’temish Foun­da­tion (c/o House of Tears Carvers) 2665 Kwina Road, Belling­ham WA 98226. Fol­low the Jour­ney at

A spe­cial thank you to vol­un­teers Mar­ty Ahart, David Turnoy, Orcas Odd­fel­lows, Ron Met­calf, Kai San­burn, Robin Reid, Judy Mey­er, and Nick Teague.

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Categories: History

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