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Lummi totem pole honors fight against oil, coal industries

Lummi carvers prepare totem pole for journey to Winnipeg

Members of the Lummi Nation House of Tears Carvers prepare a 22-foot totem pole for its journey to Winnipeg, Canada to bring attention to opposition to fossil fuel development across North America.
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Members of the Lummi Nation House of Tears Carvers prepare a 22-foot totem pole for its journey to Winnipeg, Canada to bring attention to opposition to fossil fuel development across North America.

Some 100 local environmental activists, Lummi Nation members and others participated in a blessing ceremony Tuesday, Aug. 23, for a totem pole that honors the struggle against expansion of the oil and coal industry into tribal lands across the West.

“It’s about saving the environment for that little baby we just saw here,” said Jewell James, an artist at the Lummis’ renowned House of Tears Carvers studio, during the event at the Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship.

The House of Tears totem, which depicts an eagle, bear, wolf and a tribal medicine woman, will travel by truck some 5,000 miles to locations across the northwestern U.S. and southwestern Canada to Winnipeg, Manitoba, where it will be displayed.

Jewell said the medicine woman shows a connection to the Great Spirit; the eagle symbolizes wisdom and vision; the wolf is a scout or guide; and the bear provides strength. Both the bear and wolf stand beside a spear, but neither are touching it because “the weapons of war are at peace,” Jewell said.

Speakers described the totem pole as a symbol of environmental activism that unites tribal and non-tribal residents.

“We have to stand in solidarity with one another,” said the Rev. Charis Weathers of Echoes, which is affiliated with the Lutheran Church. “The totem pole gives holy space to the fight for the rights of ... every life form on this planet. There are literally hundreds of tribes standing up for their rights and the life of this land.”

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