On Sunday, July 11, East Shore was honored with members of the Red Road to DC Totem Pole Journey who arrived in the afternoon for a blessing celebration of this year’s 20th anniversary journey. The 5,000 pound, 25 foot totem pole was carved from a 400-year-old cedar by members of the House of Tears Carvers in Bellingham. At the end of the journey across the U.S., the totem pole will be gifted to the Biden Administration and stand outside the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian before being transferred to a permanent location.
This year, the carvers have dedicated their travels to bringing awareness to social justice issues such as the need to protect indigenous sacred lands, the threats of the climate crisis and extractive industries, the impact of centuries of generational trauma, and the power of healing strength and community. Images represented on the totem pole depict Native heritage, stories, and mythologies. For example, the full moon at the top signifies Grandmother Moon as she watches over the earth’s waterways. The eagle symbolizes power and strength, and the Chinook salmon signals its important role in the lives of the indigenous people throughout our region.
At about 3:00, an audience of approximately 140 people burst into applause as the Red Road to DC crew pulled into the north parking area. As the crew organized their display, people were able take a close look at the totem pole and talk with other attendees. Mural painting, music and song, picture-taking and writing cards to the Biden administration added to the afternoon of inspiration and celebration!
The two-hour blessing celebration opened with a welcome to all by Rev. Steve Furrer as well as Board President Mike Radow. At the close of the event, Rev. Jennifer Alviar offered another blessing to send the Lummi off in a good way.
Duwamish elder, Ken Workman (Yayustubsh) then welcomed the Lummi onto Duwamish land in English, Lushootseed, and other languages spoken by Pacific Northwest tribes.
Lummi participants, Freddie Lane (Phreddie Xwenang Lane), Doug James (Sit Si Kadem) and Siam’ewlit, spoke eloquently of historical trauma and the need to protect indigenous sacred sites as well as the land, air and waters. Elected officials Lynne Robinson (Mayor of Bellevue), Patty Kuderer (WA State Senator, 41st District), Representative Vandana Slatter (48th District) and Janice Zahn (Bellevue City Councilor) responded by acknowledging that government must consult with the tribes more effectively and urgently address climate change along with other environmental challenges. Melanie Schambach, a social artist from Guatemala who is accompanying the Red Road to DC Journey, provided an 18’x18’ foot canvas mural she had created on which children and adults painted images and wrote messages.
Thanks to Eric Lane Barnes for making a video of all the photos submitted by East Shore members and friends in attendance.
We would like to acknowledge the special role that Beth Brownfield and Deb Cruz of Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship have played in amplifying the reach of Lummi efforts to engage the wider community. Through their efforts, members of East Shore and other Unitarian congregations in the Northwest and beyond, have learned from and connected with the Lummi. In addition, East Shore members have developed relations with other tribes, most notably the Duwamish on whose lands East Shore is situated. Our Land Acknowledgement recognizes this relationship and our responsibility to their homeland. In committing to the 8th principle, we hope East Shore will continue to strengthen our relations with local tribes and learn more about indigenous issues. Watch for future book groups, film showings, speakers, and programs which will help deepen our understanding and attain our goal. Bearing witness to the Red Road to DC journey is an important step in that direction.
A special thanks to the staff and congregants who shared their time and energy to make this a very special afternoon for all as we gathered together to honor the Red Road to DC Journey. Also to the East Shore Earth and Climate Action Ministry Team who endorsed the journey and is recognized on their page.
If you would be interested in getting more involved in exploring indigenous issues here at East Shore, please contact Lynn Roesch or Marilyn Mayers.
Two recent articles about the Totem Pole Journey are: