Crime

Police recover 2 of 3 priceless carvings stolen from Lummi cemetery, elders

Theft of Lummi sculptures "has to stop"

Leland Cooper talks about the recent theft and damage of sculptures and totem poles at the Lummi Cemetery and the Lummi Reservation. Cooper's brother, Cha-Das-Ska-Dum, a well known artist is buried at Lummi Cemetery and a carved bear on his grave
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Leland Cooper talks about the recent theft and damage of sculptures and totem poles at the Lummi Cemetery and the Lummi Reservation. Cooper's brother, Cha-Das-Ska-Dum, a well known artist is buried at Lummi Cemetery and a carved bear on his grave

Two of three priceless carvings were returned to their owners this week after a string of thefts from elders on the Lummi Reservation.

Police received an anonymous call that both of the carvings – a wolf totem pole for August Casimir’s grave, and a fish carved for Jean Cultee – were at an abandoned house in Marietta, said Casimir’s daughter, Charlene Casimir-George.

Her father’s giant wolf carving, about 10 feet tall, was found hidden beneath a blanket, she said Thursday. The pole was not damaged, but a metal plaque engraved with her father’s name was removed. They intend to replace it.

The Casimir carving went missing from the Lummi cemetery in early January, leaving a hole in the ground. Traditionally the living stay out of the cemetery after 3 or 4 p.m., so the dead can come out, Casimir-George said.

Casimir-George suspects the thieves – it would probably take two to haul it into a truck – heard that people were talking about the stolen carvings and realized they could get in serious trouble for trying to sell it.

Jean Cultee’s fish, a carving of a salmon from her son, had been taken from her front lawn around Christmas. On Thursday she said she went to Bellingham to buy padlocks, to keep it from happening again.

Lummi Nation Police Chief Ralph Long was out of the office Thursday, and a reporter’s phone call to a police lieutenant wasn’t immediately returned.

Police have not released information about the status of another totem pole stolen from Ed Jones’ home on the reservation or about the investigation.

A fourth carving, a bear at the grave of cultural specialist Cha-das-ska-dum, was damaged when grave robbers tried to pry it loose in recent weeks. The thieves left tire tracks in the cemetery.

Caleb Hutton: 360-715-2276, @bhamcaleb

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