Watch the recorded blessing ceremony from Wednesday, September 28, 2022.
The House of Tears Carvers of the Lummi Nation created the Sacred Sites Totem Pole in 2021 for President Joe Biden and to raise awareness of the importance of Indigenous voices in the stewardship and conservation of our natural resources and sacred lands and waters. Upon completion, a delegation from the Carvers, the Native Organizers Alliance, and other partners transported the Totem Pole from the Lummi Nation in the present state of Washington to Washington, D.C. on a two-week journey they named the “Red Road to D.C."
Along the way, the delegation visited eight sites sacred to Indigenous Peoples: Snake River, Idaho; Bears Ears, Utah; Chaco Canyon, New Mexico; Black Hills, South Dakota; Missouri River, South Dakota; Standing Rock, North Dakota; White Earth, Minnesota; and the Straits of Mackinac, Michigan.
At each sacred site they visited, the Totem Pole served as a powerful symbol of Native cultures, traditions, sovereignty, and respect for the earth. Everyone in attendance, be they Indigenous or not, was welcome to touch, commune with, admire, or otherwise experience the Totem Pole—as you also are welcome to do.
At the end of their journey, at an event on the National Mall, the delegation presented the Totem Pole to Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, who accepted it on behalf of President Joe Biden. The subsequent donation agreement conveyed the Totem Pole to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and designated the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia as its permanent home.
About the House of Tears Carvers and the Artists
The House of Tears Carvers of the Lummi Nation carves and donates Totem Poles to communities and organizations “in need of hope and healing.” The Carvers’ first such projects were three Totem Poles they created in memory of the victims of September 11, 2001, which are located in Washington, D.C., New York, and Pennsylvania. Since 2013, the House of Tears Carvers has created a new Totem Pole each year.
Lummi master carver Se-sealth served as head carver of the Sacred Sites Totem Pole. Se-sealth’s brother, Doug James, was assistant carver. Ten other relatives, all members of the Lummi Nation and ranging in age from 4 to adult, helped to sand and paint the Totem Pole.
The Significance of the Totem Pole’s Figures
Se-sealth explained that since the Totem Pole’s journey to Washington, D.C. was to raise awareness of the importance of Indigenous voices in the stewardship and conservation of our natural resources and sacred lands and waters, the carvers “decided to let the Spirit guide the choice of figures as we carved the Totem.” He added that they painted most of the Totem Pole in the traditional colors used by the Indigenous Peoples of the Pacific Northwest—red, yellow, black, and white—which symbolize the different hues of our global family.